Deepening your knowledge about CliftonStrengths, specifically how strengths work together within a person or on a team, can naturally spawn curiosity about how certain themes compare and contrast with one another.
Read on for examples of how each of the 34 CliftonStrengths themes compares and contrasts with a selection of three other similar strengths. This isn't an exhaustive list, but rather a way to learn more about strengths dynamics while discovering some of the similarities and differences between individual themes.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Achiever
Get it done. Get it off my plate. Check it off my list. If you have strong Achiever talents, these phrases very likely not only resonate with you, they energize you. Achiever is the No. 1 occurring theme in our CliftonStrengths database of over 15 million individuals worldwide -- among both men and women.
People high in Achiever not only possess the stamina to work hard and be productive, they are driven to work hard and be productive-it's a need that must be fulfilled every day. Achiever is a productivity theme, and Achievers are restless until something -- anything -- is accomplished each and every day.
Look at the similarities and differences between Achiever and Responsibility, Activator, and Focus. In action and in terms of outcomes, these themes can look a lot like achiever. But there are differences is motivation that are important to understand.
Achiever and Responsibility
Individuals high in Achiever and those high in Responsibility both tend to be very productive; they get things done, and work tirelessly until the task is completed. They look a lot alike, but there is a significant difference in the motivation to accomplish tasks. Achiever is an internally motivated theme: it feels so good to get so much done. Responsibility is an externally motivated theme: it feels so good to keep my commitments -- if I told you I would do it, my word is my bond and you can count on me to do it. Both Achiever and Responsibility likes to be known as reliable, but that reliability drive comes from a different place. For Achiever, the reliability results from feeling good about accomplishing a lot and being known as a hard worker who can be counted on to get things done. For Responsibility, the reliability results from feeling good about being someone others can count on to keep their word and fulfill their commitments. For those with both Achiever and Responsibility in their Top 5 (which happens a lot as Achiever is number one and Responsibility is number two in our database), the temptation is to take on too much and overcommit -- due to the both the internal push and external pull to be productive that characterizes these super-busy individuals. If you find yourself in this boat, you may need a partner who can help you push the pause button every now and then.
Achiever and Activator
Both Achiever and Activator tend to be "high energy" themes. But again, that energy comes from a different motivational source. Achiever is driven to get things done; Activator is driven to get things started. Achiever wants to finish the list, Activator wants to start the list. Achiever says "I will get it done," and Activator says "Let's get going." A subtle -- but important -- distinction is in the pronoun: I vs. we. Achiever is an Executing theme; it helps an individual be productive and complete tasks. Activator is an Influencing theme, and there is typically an "other" component to Activator; Activators move others to take action and not just sit around talking about what might happen. In such a meeting, Achiever will make the list of the things he will do, while Activator will use her influence to get the group moving and commit to getting started.
Achiever and Focus
There is a commonality of accomplishing and finishing between Achiever and Focus that make them look very similar in terms of their behaviors. But while Achiever can sometimes be characterized by a flurry of activity, Focus is most often characterized by prioritization of activity in relation to accomplishing a goal. Achiever is the language of "checking it off the list," while Focus is the language of "reaching my goals." Activity for Focus only feels good if it adds to the accomplishing of goals. Achiever tends to be more short-term (daily list, attacking the inbox, etc.), while Focus tends to be longer term (monthly priorities, annual goal-setting with daily actions). Achiever asks, "What needs to be done now?" Focus asks, "What is the most important thing that needs to be done?"
CliftonStrengths Theme: Activator
"OK, are we done talking about this? Let's get moving." If you have Activator in your Top 5, you probably have said this more than once -- maybe weekly (or more often) in your team meetings. Activators tend to live by the motto that the worst action to take is no action.
Those strong in Activator talents learn by doing, and they bring energy to most any situation that needs a boost. Activator is energized by starting, but usually not so much by finishing. In fact, those high in Activator may get bored half way through a project and look around for something else to get started. Getting things moving, getting the ball rolling, setting things in motion -- these are all common characteristics of the Activator theme.
Look at the similarities and differences between Activator and Command, Ideation, and Woo.
Activator and Command
Both Activator and Command have a decisiveness about them that moves things forward. But while there is a natural impatience with Activator, that may not be the case with Command. Depending on other themes, Command may be very content to get all the data, weigh all the options, and then give the orders to act. But strong Activator doesn't need or want to wait; "we don't have to get it all figured out, let's just get started and we'll learn along the way." Command will take charge; Activator will take action. Command will confront; Activator will urge. Both Activator and Command are influencing themes, but while Command tends to influence from the front of the pack, Activator tends to influence from the midst of the pack. Command is in the driver's seat; Activator is the spark plug.
Activator and Ideation
There is a certain sense of positive attitude and optimism about both Activator and Ideation that brings energy and creativity to a team. And individuals with high Activator can be great partners with individuals high in Ideation. Ideation says, "What if we did this?" and Activator says "Let's do this!" Activator doesn't necessarily think up things to do, and Ideation doesn't necessarily act on everything it thinks of. Activator is energized by getting started on a creative plan, while Ideation is energized by conceiving a creative plan. Ideation sees possibilities, and Activator acts on possibilities. For Ideation, thinking is doing. For Activator, doing is doing. Both Ideation and Activator can tend to be seen as impractical, yet creative. Activator might say, "Let's just do it and see what happens, and then we can adjust accordingly;" while Ideation might say, "I have an idea that may sound crazy, but it just might work. If it does, great! And if it doesn't, we'll just think of something else." Both Ideation and Activator can motivate teams to think -- and act -- outside the box.
Activator and Woo
There is a positive energy and sense of fun that can be associated with both Activator and Woo. Both are Influencing themes, and both Activator and Woo can motivate others and influence the decisions and actions of a team. This makes both themes look somewhat similar in their outcomes, but the motivation comes from different sources. Woo (Winning Others Over) finds energy in meeting new people, creating a network, getting people on its side, bringing energy to social situations. Activator finds energy in getting things moving, starting a project, getting a decision and then acting. For Woo, meeting people and networking feels like an accomplishment in and of itself, while for Activator the purpose of meeting people and networking is to "rally the troops" to take action and get going. Small talk often times may not feel productive to an Activator, while for those with Woo small talk can feel very productive -- because it builds relationships that add to the network.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Adaptability
It is said that Abraham Lincoln once stated, "The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time." People with strong Adaptability talents resonate with the truth of that statement, and find it to be particularly helpful in navigating the vicissitudes of daily life.
Adaptability is a "now" theme that finds deep satisfaction in living in the moment. Individuals with Adaptability in their Top 5 tend to live by the motto, "If you're handed it, you can handle it" -- because that is exactly what they do. They are not often fazed or upset with momentary change, but have a sense of calm assurance that whatever may come, they are equipped to handle it.
In fact, individuals high in Adaptability view the interruptions of the day as the most exciting part of the day -- because you never know what is going to happen. They often are extremely adept at "going with the flow."
Adaptability and Empathy
One of the great gifts that one receives from being in the presence of a person high in Adaptability is that he or she is completely focused on you in that moment. And that can feel like Empathy to the receiver. So while the outcome or behavior may feel the same, the drivers of those behaviors are different. Both themes are very present in the moment with others. Empathy is intuitive about how people are feeling; Adaptability is reactive to how people are feeling. Empathy can sense how someone feels often times without even talking to or interacting with person; when those with Adaptability interact with a person they are so focused on that person that feelings become obvious. Empathy can tell how you are feeling before talking to you; Adaptability can tell how you are feeling by talking to you. Adaptability easily adapts to the external; Empathy adapts to sympathize with others.
Adaptability and Focus
There is a certain single-mindedness that is characteristic of both Adaptability and Focus. However, the single-mindedness of Adaptability is more momentary, while Focus is more long-term and goal oriented. Adaptability goes with the flow, and Focus stays the course. Those high in Adaptability can be distracted by what is going on around them; those high in Focus can be oblivious to what is going on around them. Adaptability needs to limit distractions in order to concentrate; Focus can tune out distractions in order to concentrate. For Focus, unforeseen events or circumstances must be managed so the goal can be achieved. For Adaptability, unforeseen events or circumstances must be embraced so that life can be fully lived.
Adaptability and Connectedness
Both Adaptability and Connectedness are Relationship Building themes, so there are some similarities between them. Both Adaptability and Connectedness can find meaning in the present moment and can pay attention to what is happening now. Both themes make connections with others. But there are some distinct differences as well. Connectedness tends to believe that every day is important because of its connection to the greater whole, while Adaptability tends to believe that every day is important in and of itself. Connectedness views life-events from a "ripple effect" vantage point -- that every action starts a series of consequences and actions that span across time and space like the ripples that expand from tossing a pebble into a pool of water. Adaptability believes that today is enough, and tomorrow may bring something else completely unrelated. Connectedness finds meaning in events; Adaptability reacts to events. Connectedness tends to be motivated by the belief that all there is isn't "all there is," while Adaptability tends to be motivated by focusing on what is happening in the here and now.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Analytical
Analytical is what I call a "questioning" theme -- people high in Analytical tend to ask a lot of questions. The questions they ask are most likely of the "prove it to me" variety: "Where did you get that information? What does the data say? Have you done your homework? What are your sources? What is the evidence to back it up? How do you know this will work?"
Analytical focuses on the facts, figures, data, and evidence to come to conclusions and find patterns. Before acting, individuals with Analytical in their Top 5 will weigh the evidence, study the data, and make an informed decision -- then take action. Sound thinking is the hallmark of Analytical, and objectivity is the goal.
Explore the similarities and differences between Analytical and Strategic, Learner, and Focus.
Analytical and Strategic
Both Analytical and Strategic are thinking themes, which means they very similar in many ways. Both are characterized by gaining energy from internal processing, and both tend to have a "think before you act" approach to accomplishing goals and tasks. Both tend to look for and recognize patterns. But Strategic is more of an anticipatory theme while Analytical is more of a reactive theme. Strategic anticipates options and possibilities; Analytical scrutinizes current data. Strategic looks for possible patterns to predict alternatives; Analytical examines existing patterns to find solutions. Strategic tends to fly at 30,000 feet and sees the big picture; Analytical can tend to be "on the ground" and seeing the details of the obstacles and routes forward.
Analytical and Learner
Again, Analytical and Learner are both thinking themes, so there is a similarity in that internal mental activity characterizes both of them. Both themes tend to be rather studious. But the purpose of study is different for each theme. Analytical studies data for patterns, answers, trends, and solutions. Learner studies subjects for information, clarity, creativity and novelty. For those high in Learner, the process of learning can be a satisfying end in and of itself, regardless of the utility of that learning. For those high in Analytical, often times learning needs to lead to a better conclusion, a more well thought out plan, or more sound thinking. Learner loves taking a class, reading a book, being a subject matter expert. Analytical loves finding the proof, exploring connections, discovering the source. Analytical searches for reasons and causes, while Learner searches for new information or experiences.
Analytical and Focus
Analytical and Focus can look very similar in their outcomes. There is a doggedness to each of these themes -- a determination aspect that can give them a common appearance. But the aim of that doggedness is very different. Analytical is determined to find the proof, discover the connection, and won't stop until the reasoning behind an action is sound. Focus is determined to reach a goal, accomplish priorities, and won't stop until the goal line is crossed. Analytical is a certain way of thinking, and Focus is a certain way of executing. Those high in Analytical don't necessarily need to act on fruit of their fact-finding -- sometimes finding the facts is action enough. Those high in Focus, however, are driven to achieve a goal -- and data is only relevant if it helps achieve the goal. For Analytical, thinking can be an activity that is its own reward; for Focus, thinking serves as an adjunct to action and serves the purpose of achieving one's goals.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Arranger
When I was very young, I used to watch the Ed Sullivan Show with my parents and grandparents. Other than Topo Gigio, the Italian mouse puppet, the recurring act that fascinated me most was the man who spun the plates on the tall sticks while the music of Khachaturian's "Russian Sabre Dance" played in the background. How many could he spin? Would any of them drop? The drama and the tension just kept building!
That's the image I have for Arranger -- an image that stresses out most people, but energizes and excites those with strong Arranger talents. Arrangers like complexity, intricacy, motion, and configuring people and systems for optimum results. Arranger is a way of getting things done -- a flexible organizational mindset, if you will, that maximizes productivity.
Arranger and Adaptability
There are a lot of similarities between Arranger and Adaptability. Both have an innate flexibility to them. Both are quick to modify their approaches when faced with change. Both have an ability to concentrate on the task at hand. But while Adaptability tends to be predominantly reactive, Arranger has the capacity to be primarily proactive coupled with the ability to react quickly to changing circumstances -- and then proactively create a new plan that accounts for the new reality. Arranger will often instigate change in order to address a new situation or new information; Adaptability is quick to respond to changes in circumstances. Those with strong Adaptability will readily implement the changes in systems and processes created by those with strong Arranger. Arranger anticipates the implications for the here and now that changes in direction necessitate -- and plans accordingly. Adaptability is energized by changes in direction and responds accordingly.
Arranger and Connectedness
Both Arranger and Connectedness have a strong team/other/relationship aspect to them. But with this common aspect comes a difference in perspective between the two. Connectedness is fascinated with and senses the inherent integration of all reality; Arranger is Focused on organizing and positioning people, systems, and processes for maximum productivity. Arranger coordinates the performance of a group, while Connectedness recognizes and celebrates the existence of a group. Those with Connectedness in their Top 5 intuitively know that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; those with Arranger in their Top 5 intuitively know how to position each part so that the whole functions more effectively and efficiently. Both Arranger and Connectedness are essentially "if … then ..." themes. But Connectedness sees this from a philosophical perspective while Arranger sees it from a productivity perspective.
Arranger and Includer
Similar to Connectedness, both Includer and Arranger have a strong group orientation. Both are concerned with what is going on with the group, and how each member fits into the team. However, Arranger is focused on getting each member in the right role to maximize team production -- while Includer is focused on what each member contributes to the relationship and thinking of the team. Arranger coordinates the performance of a group; Includer is sensitive to exclusion from the group. Arranger doesn't necessarily want to ensure that all voices are heard -- Arranger wants maximum productivity. Includer wants to insure that all voices heard, because that will contribute to maximum productivity. Arranger is a way of Executing; Includer is a way of Relating.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Belief
Values. Ethics. Right and Wrong. Altruism. If you have Belief in your Top 5, these are words that are very likely part of your vocabulary or their definitions seem to fit you "like a glove."
People high in Belief are seen as dependable, because others know where they stand; they are driven to act on their values, and take a stand when a value is at stake. The most important aspect of life if one has strong Belief is staying true to one's values. For Belief, work has to matter -- it's more than making widgets.
My father once told me there are two ways to look at work: one way is to see the income you make from your job as the way you can make a difference in the world; the other way is to see your job as the way you make your difference in the world. Those high in Belief talents more often than not see work in light of the second option.
Look at the differences and similarities between Belief and Maximizer, Significance, and Achiever.
Belief and Maximizer
One of the things that Belief and Maximizer have in common is a commitment to standards. But the idea of what constitutes those standards is one of the differentiators between Belief and Maximizer. Belief is driven by mission, purpose, integrity and values - those are the standards that Belief aspires to live up to. Maximizer is driven by excellence, value, meeting a challenge, and focusing on developing talents into strengths. Excellence is the standard to which Maximizer aspires. Maximizer wants to build something great; Belief wants to do something purpose-driven. Maximizer inspires others to achieve excellence; Belief inspires others to achieve the mission.
Belief and Significance
These two themes rarely show up in the same individual's Top 5, so when they do it's an opportunity to explore a rather unique combination. Belief tends to say, "I am true to my values even when no one is watching;" Significance tends to say, "I will be true to my values because you never know when someone is watching." Belief is an inward push to be the best version of oneself; Significance is an outward pull to be the best version of oneself. An important similarity between Belief and Significance is the desire to be involved in important, world-changing projects or initiatives -- whether it be at work or in volunteering. Individuals strong in Belief want to be involved in those big projects because they align with their values; those strong in Significance want to be involved in those big projects because they want to make a difference and leave a legacy.
Belief and Achiever
Both Belief and Achiever are executing themes, so one of the things they have in common is a drive to get things done, to take action, to produce results. Achiever is the drive for daily productivity, and being busy and checking things off the list motivates those high in Achiever. Belief, however, doesn't have to be busy and productive every day; Belief is a more selective productivity. If a project or initiative aligns with the values of an individual strong in Belief, that person will work tirelessly to accomplish the goals and deliver great results. Alignment of values, purpose, and work are essential to those with Belief in their Top 5. While those high in Achiever can often feel great about any job they have as long as they are busy and productive, those high in Belief only feel good about themselves and the work they do if that work aligns with their mission and purpose in life.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Command
Command is the least likely theme to show up in one's Top 5. As such, Command tends to be one of the least understood themes of talent, and there is a lot that is misunderstood about Command. Because of this, the basement side -- or hindrances -- of Command tend to get the most attention, and people want to know how to better manage their Command if it is a dominant theme.
People high in Command instinctively take charge, express their opinion, calm the chaos, and give direction. They can inspire and they can intimidate -- and both are of those can be positive attributes. As a leader, you want and need to inspire your team to do things they never thought they could; and there are also times you need to intimidate those who would threaten your team.
There is a very protective nature to Command; those high in Command will rise up to defend and protect the ones they lead and the ones they love. Command is not afraid to take risks, and not afraid to confront -- bringing emotional clarity to and resolving thorny issues.
Explore the differences and similarities between Command and Woo, Belief, and Self-Assurance.
Command and Woo
Both Command and Woo (Winning Others Over) are Influencing themes, and both seek to sway others' opinions to their way of thinking and acting. Woo wants to be liked; Command wants to be followed. But Command can look like Woo in that can be a certain charm or charisma element to Command as a way of garnering followership. Woo finds energy in meeting new people, whereas Command finds energy in leading people. People high in Woo sometimes smooth over conflict in order to grow their network; people high in Command sometimes accelerate conflict in order to move the team or relationship forward. Woo seeks to inspire trust through personal connection; Command seeks to inspire trust through accomplishing a difficult goal.
Command and Belief
I had a mentor who once said that Belief, when challenged, can look a lot like Command. There is truth to that statement. Have you ever known someone who doesn't say much, gets along with others, but when there is a value or standard or ethical position at stake they become very passionate and animated -- and challenge any who are threatening or violation that value? It may be likely they have Belief as a dominant theme -- and their Belief is showing up like Command. There is a confidence that is common to both Command and Belief: Belief tends to display confidence around core values, while Command tends to display confidence about the ability to lead a team to achieve a goal. There is also a clarity about both Belief and Command: Belief has clarity is about values, Command brings and values emotional clarity.
Command and Self-Assurance
Like Woo, Command and Self-Assurance are both influencing themes. But how each theme influences is quite different, yet can look very similar. Both Command and Self-Assurance have an innate confidence about them. Those with strong Command are confident in their ability to set direction and lead others in that direction. Those with strong Self-Assurance are confident in their ability to lead their own lives without much, if any, advice from anyone else. Command needs others to lead; Self-Assurance is fine going alone -- but welcomes any who want to come along. Self-Assurance has a strong inner compass that guides one's life; Command has a strong sense of direction about where the team should go. Command needs and likes pushback -- it's the way to come to clarity. Self-Assurance has clarity already and doesn't need or seek pushback.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Communication
"That reminds me of a story …" So begin many conversations with those high in Communication. The Communication theme likes to talk, describe, explain, host, tell stories, speak in public.
Individuals with Communication in their Top 5 are verbally influential, and rarely have trouble coming up with just the right word or the perfect metaphor to illustrate and animate their point. Those with strong Communication talents paint the picture with words so that others can vividly see what they are describing. They are good conversationalists, and can strike up a conversation with just about anyone.
As this theme matures, Communication is not only a good talker, but a good listener as well -- true communication is a two-way street and the give-and-take of genuine conversation is essential to both understanding and being understood.
Look at the differences and similarities between Communication and Woo, Intellection, and Positivity.
Communication and Woo
Communication and Woo (Winning Others Over) often show up together in an individual's Top 5. Both are Influencing themes, and both have an outgoing, social aspect to them. While Woo is about social influence, Communication is about verbal influence. Both are about connection -- Woo connects with others through breaking the ice and taking the first step; Communication connects with others through finding the right words -- either making the initiative or responding to the outreach of another. Woo finds energy in meeting new people; Communication finds energy in talking to new people. For Woo the thrill is in the meeting, and for Communication the thrill is in the ensuing conversation. If the conversation is stimulating, those high in Communication will continue with the same person for hours -- while a person high in Woo will get antsy after a while and start looking for someone else to meet.
Communication and Intellection
In many ways, Communication and Intellection are opposites. Communication is externally energized and Intellection is internally energized. Communication comes to clarity around ideas by talking them through -- those high in Communication always seem to be seeking out others to "bounce some ideas" off them or "let me talk this idea through" with; they "think out loud." By contrast, those high in Intellection need to "think things through" before talking about their ideas, and need time alone to think. Individuals high in Communication tend to like group brainstorming sessions where they can think out loud and be stimulated by the ideas of others, while individuals high in Intellection would prefer to have some prep time to think things through before coming to a brainstorming session so they can present their best ideas. Communication learns best when talking to others; Intellection learns best when alone and quiet.
Communication and Positivity
As is the case with Woo, Positivity tends to show up very close to Communication in an individual's Theme Sequence Report. In fact, this trio tends to show up either in pairs with one of the others or all three together. Communication and Positivity share many similarities, but also have some differences as well. While Communication is about verbal influence, Positivity is about emotional influence -- even though it is primarily a relationship building theme. Positivity lifts and lightens the emotions of others, not necessarily through words alone. Communication stirs the emotions of others through words, sometimes positively and sometimes negatively. Positivity needs to laugh, smile, and hope. Communication needs to talk, tell, and explain. Those high in Positivity see the glass as always half-full; those high in Communication can tell an intriguing story about the glass and how it came to hold such an amazing and interesting concoction -- and who drank half of it.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Competition
Joe Namath once said, "When you win, nothing hurts." Those high in Competition understand the truth of that statement, because to them there is nothing like winning. Competition measures performance: "What are the numbers I have to beat? What is the time I need to win? Who is ahead me -- of us? Who is our closest competitor in our market? Are we more productive this month than last month? What are our year-over-year numbers -- and who do we need to beat?"
For those with Competition in their Top 5, measuring and competing drive their performance. Competition runs faster when there is someone in the next lane -- ideally, someone as good as or better than me. Those high in Competition choose their "games" wisely; if they can't see a path to winning, then what is the point of competing? Competition needs metrics, because metrics spur comparison. "If you can compare, you can compete, and if you can compete, you can win."
Look at the similarities and differences between Competition and Achiever, Command, and Activator.
Competition and Achiever
Competition and Achiever can look a lot alike, because both themes can appear to be particularly productive. When they show up together in a person's Top 5, they can complement each other nicely. Competition does things that enable winning; Achiever completes tasks that need to be finished. Those high in Competition tend to feel incomplete unless they win; those high in Achiever tend to feel incomplete if there are tasks left undone at the end of the day. Achiever keeps busy; Competition keeps its eye on the prize. Competition wants to be the best; Achiever wants to get something done. Those high in Achiever want to cross the finish line, and those high in Competition want to cross the finish line in first place.
Competition and Command
Like Achiever, the outcomes of Competition and Command can be very similar in that there is a focus for both on accomplishing a goal and perhaps winning. Competition needs to compare; Command needs a challenge. Competition needs someone to compete against; Command needs a team to lead. For those with strong Command talents, there really doesn't need to be anyone else trying to get to the mountain top first; in fact the idea that nobody has done it before is particularly enticing and motivating to them. Those with strong Competition talents need the push of someone competing with them to bring out their best. Both Competition and Command can challenge the performance of others; for Command it is when another's performance is detrimental to the team's achievement, and for Competition it is when another's performance is causing us to lose ground to a competitor.
Competition and Activator
There is a certain energy and movement to both Competition and Activator that may seem to suggest a lot of similarity, but on examination they are two very different themes. Activator is by nature impatient, while Competition can be very patient if that is what it takes to win. Those high in Activator don't necessarily like practice or the repetitive nature of practice -- but can grudgingly accept it as the price to pay for getting better. Competition, on the other hand, tends to welcome practice and repetition as an integral part of preparing to compete. Practice makes perfect -- and perfection wins.
Activators want to get things started and often get bored half way through the project. Those high in Competition will see it through -- particularly if they are winning or are close to victory. Those high in Competition often will spend time on developing a winning strategy, while those high in Activator often will jump in, get started and make it up as they go along.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Connectedness
In the opening scene of "The Lion King," the Shaman Rafiki holds up a newly born Simba in front of all the Pride Lands as "The Circle of Life" is sung in the background. This is the epitome of Connectedness: the circle of life, the web of creation, the invisible hand.
Connectedness can sound like "there are no coincidences -- everything happens for a reason." Or it can sound like the "Butterfly Effect" -- when a butterfly beats its wings in Brazil, it rains in Beijing. We are all part of one humanity, and what happens to one member affects us all.
Those high in Connectedness tend to see patterns and relationships where others only see chaos and confusion. While there may indeed be randomness in the world of those with strong Connectedness talents, there is no occurrence that is without meaning. The mystery of life is not confusing; rather, in a very profound way it is comforting.
Explore the similarities and differences of Connectedness with Belief, Harmony, and Futuristic. All of these themes have a lot in common with Connectedness, but it is important to note their differences.
Connectedness and Belief
Connectedness and Belief tend to show up close together in one's Theme Sequence. If an individual is strong in Connectedness, Belief is usually (but not always) close by -- and vice versa. People with high Belief need a cause to which to devote themselves; those with high Connectedness need to be part of something bigger than themselves. Those with strong Belief talents are motivated by values and mission; those with strong Connectedness talents are motivated by the value they place on the underlying unity of all reality. Connectedness accepts mystery, while belief conveys certainty of truth. Belief will make sacrifices for things that are important; Connectedness will make sacrifices for the well-being of future generations.
Connectedness and Harmony
There is a spirit of unity that permeates both themes of Connectedness and Harmony, but is manifested in different ways. Connectedness sees unity in diversity -- it is our uniqueness that binds us together. Harmony sees unity in points of agreement -- we are more alike than we are different. Harmony wants to do what works best and is often seen as very practical, while Connectedness wants to experience the mystery of life and is often seen as very spiritual. Harmony wants us all to get along; Connectedness wants us all to make the journey together. Harmony brings a peace-loving, conflict-resistant approach, and Connectedness brings an appreciation for the mystery and wonder of life. When the viewpoints of both Connectedness and Harmony are integrated, much can be accomplished.
Connectedness and Futuristic
Neither Connectedness nor Futuristic would be what I would consider "concrete" themes. Both themes reside in the realm of the unseen, the not yet, the "this isn't all there is -- or can be." But while Futuristic is concerned with what is or may come, Connectedness can be very "in the moment." Futuristic imagines or anticipates what can be; Connectedness is aware of the inherent, invisible unity that already exists. Those high in Futuristic are fascinated with tomorrow and can vividly see what that tomorrow can look like. In contrast, those high in Connectedness might tend to be fascinated with both existing and future connections that can be seen or described, but only hinted at. Futuristic can see a better world coming; Connectedness can see a better world already exists.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Consistency
Consistency is in the Bottom 5 of my CliftonStrengths theme sequence, sitting at number 32, so I don't have a great personal understanding of this theme. I needed a "poster child," someone with strong Consistency talents that I could look to as an example.
As it turns out, my father-in-law is my poster child -- he had Consistency in his Top 5. He hated to see anyone disadvantaged by their life circumstances, and it drove him nuts when people got special privileges because of their status. To him, everyone deserved to be treated the same, and the rules applied to everyone.
Fairness was a big deal to him. In his last five years of employment at the meat packing plant, he was the union representative -- and one of the most effective ones the plant ever had. He had the respect and trust of both the frontline workers and management, because both sides knew he was working for what was fair and right and equitable for everyone. He was consistent.
Consistency and Harmony
Consistency and Harmony have a lot of similarities. Both themes trend to be more focused on groups than individuals. Both themes have an efficiency component to them. And both themes tend to Focus on how we get along and work together. Consistency works toward creating the organizational efficiency of a group, while Harmony works to establish the emotional efficiency of a group. Harmony sees conflict as completely unproductive and so will either avoid conflict or resolve it; Consistency sees the establishing of group norms and standards as key to preventing the conflict that makes groups unproductive. Consistency creates efficient processes for a group, while Harmony manages the emotions of a group.
Consistency and Includer
Includer is the "we are a team" theme. "Teamwork makes the dream work" is a favorite quote for those high in Includer. As with Harmony, Consistency and Includer have a lot in common. Again, both tend to be more focused on groups than individuals. Includer is sensitive to those who might feel excluded from the group, while Consistency is sensitive to being fair to everyone so they feel part of the group. Includer demands broad involvement and inclusion, while Consistency demands fair rules and standards that by which everyone will abide. Those with strong Includer talents want to draw the circle wider, while those with strong Consistency talents want to ensure that all those within the widened circle are treated fairly and equitably. People high in Includer tend to be socially accepting and tolerant of varying points of view, while those high in Consistency are intolerant of anything that is unfair or discriminatory toward one group over another.
Consistency and Context
Individuals high in Context may be mistakenly thought to be high in Consistency, especially when they are advocating for a consistent approach that aligns with past decisions. While that may be the outcome of Context, the two themes are really quite different. Context is primarily a way of thinking about and analyzing information, while Consistency is primarily a way of getting things done. Consistency wants to improve efficiency by reducing variation. Context wants to improve efficiency by examining past solutions -- "Why reinvent the wheel?" Context thinks about past events and situations to understand the issues of today; Consistency implements standard practices and group norms to execute solutions to the issues of today. Those high in Consistency advocate for acting according to the rules; those high in Context advocate understanding the past before taking any action that will impact the future.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Context
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 Context 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, look to the "blueprints," and become wiser about the future because they understand the past.
Context and Analytical
Like Analytical, Context is a questioning theme. Context and Analytical are also both thinking themes. So in some sense, these two themes can appear similar: critical thinking, question asking, examining the evidence. But the focus and motivation are different. For those high in Context, truth is often revealed through the examination of past events. For those high in Analytical, truth is found through examining the data. Context asks questions that are primarily intended to reveal how we got here, while Analytical asks questions that are primarily intended to get to the proof of a concept. Analytical deals with what is -- the facts in front of us, while Context deals with what was -- what has gone on before, and how we can learn from it.
Context and Connectedness
Context and Connectedness share the similarity of making linkages between events across time. But while Context focuses on the past, Connectedness focuses on timelessness -- looking backward, forward, and side to side. Context is a way of processing information and coming to conclusions, and Connectedness is a way of finding inherent relationships and forging new ones -- whether those relationships are between events, ideas, or people. Individuals with strong Context talents remember important history, while those with strong Connectedness talents integrate parts into the whole. Connectedness accepts and even embraces the mystery of the past, present, and future; Context seeks to learn from history in order to make sense of the present and then proceed into the future.
Context and Restorative
There is a connection to the past that brings similarity to the themes of Context and Restorative. Context's connect to the past is to study and learn from history, while Restorative's connection to the past lies in fixing what is broken in order to restore it to its original wholeness. As such, Context is a way of thinking about things whereas Restorative is a way of getting things done. Restorative seeks to understand all aspects of a problem in order to solve it; Context seeks to understand past solutions in order to make sense of the current situation. Restorative is energized by solving a thorny problem; Context is energized by finding a new insight from a review of the past.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Deliberative
Of the over 12 million people who have taken the CliftonStrengths assessment worldwide, 11% have Deliberative among their Top 5 or Signature Themes of talent. This makes it one of the rarer Signature Themes, and as such can often be misunderstood or mistaken for other themes.
Look at the similarities and differences between Deliberative and Analytical, Context, and Responsibility. All four of these themes tend to be serious (depending on the other themes that surround them) -- but what drives the serious nature of each of these themes is different and unique to each theme.
Deliberative and Analytical
Deliberative naturally and instinctively sees everything that could possibly go wrong, and then pursues the safest route to ensure mistakes are not made. Analytical examines the data, and asks questions in order to determine if there is something that could go wrong, but doesn't necessarily need to take action. Deliberative is cautious, Analytical is probing. Deliberative can intuit why we shouldn't; Analytical wants to find out why we should. Analytical is skeptical until given proof; Deliberative discovers and displays proof that everyone else misses. Deliberative is a way of cautiously moving through obstacles; Analytical is a way of thoroughly considering evidence.
Deliberative and Context
Deliberative is cautious about the future, Context is reflective about the past. Context wants to know how we got here, Deliberative wants to find the safest way forward. Context wants to know about the mistakes and successes of the past, Deliberative wants to determine the mistakes to be avoided in order to be successful in the future. Deliberative is the brake that is essential for safe driving; Context is the rearview mirror that is essential for safe driving. Deliberative is a way of taking the most appropriate and safest course of action; Context is a way of sifting through past evidence to learn what worked and what didn't.
Deliberative and Responsibility
Deliberative is serious about avoiding mistakes, Responsibility is serious about keeping commitments. Deliberative wants to do things right, Responsibility wants to do right by others. Deliberative slows things down to ensure the right path -- with the least amount of risk -- is taken. Responsibility forges ahead to meet the deadline -- when a commitment is at stake. Deliberative is trusted because it can be relied upon to consistently see potential obstacles and mitigate risk; Responsibility is trusted because it can be relied upon to consistently keep its commitments no matter the cost. Deliberative takes action once a safe way forward is determined; Responsibility takes action once a commitment is made.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Developer
Individuals with strong Developer talents not only see the potential in others, they want to invest in that potential and help it grow. Every individual is a work in progress, and Developers are driven to further that work along. No growth is too small -- all growth is recognized and celebrated.
Those high in Developer like to teach, coach, mentor, invest. Small increments add up to huge growth. Developers are fascinated with devising the best way to bring out the best in others and help them achieve their full potential. Developers tend to be patient, and make a commitment to human growth.
A friend of mine is fond of saying, "By the yard, it's hard; but inch by inch it's a cinch!" That saying can aptly apply to the perspective of those with Developer in their Top 5. Incremental progress is the best and most effective way to realize potential.
Look at the similarities and differences between Developer and Maximizer, Restorative, and Empathy.
Developer and Maximizer
Developer and Maximizer are similar in that they both are likely to be focused on progress. However, Developer notices and promotes growth in others while Maximizer notices and promotes excellence. That excellence may be centered in other people, but not necessarily. Excellence may be a design, a product, a system, or a performance. Developer is first and foremost interested in the development of people. Developer is a relationship building theme, whereas Maximizer is an influencing theme. Maximizers tend to narrow their focus on what can be built from good to great or (better yet!) great to excellent. Developers, helping someone grow from C to C+ is energizing -- while Maximizers would consider such an investment a waste of time. Those high in Maximizer love a maximum return on investment, while those high in Developer love any human potential and progress.
Developer and Restorative
Restorative wants to fix things -- and even people, and Developer wants to help people grow. So the outcome of both Restorative and Developer may look very similar. But their point of view is very different. Individuals with strong Restorative talents light up when there is a problem that needs to be solved, so they enjoy helping others solve their problems and understand all the factors that went into creating that problem -- so that they can find and implement solutions. Those with strong Developer talents don't necessarily want to help others solve their problems; rather they look for the growth potential in others and partner with them to implement steps to realize that potential. Developer is about building relationships, while Restorative is about executing problem-solving strategies.
Developer and Empathy
Developer and Empathy are both Relationship Building themes, and although there are subtle yet important differences between the two, when they both appear in someone's Top 5, it is a powerful combination. Both themes have an intense focus on others. Empathy understands how you feel; Developer envisions your potential. Those with strong Empathy talents will sit with you in your misery, and by their very presence and understanding will help you through it. Those with strong Developer talents can see the potential in you that others may not, and then patiently work with you to help you realize it. Developer understands the potential in others; Empathy understands the feelings of others. Empathy knows how someone feels; Developer knows what someone needs.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Discipline
"A place for everything and everything in its place." This is the mantra that drives Discipline. Individuals with strong Discipline talents thrive on routine, structure, precision, and order. For those high in Discipline the only thing better than a detailed agenda is a timed detailed agenda -- that everyone sticks to.
Those with Discipline in their Top 5 need their world to be predictable and they don't particularly like surprises. Sticking to the schedule, fashioning a structure, and building a framework creates a sense of freedom for those high in Discipline, because they don't have to worry about managing unpredictability. Crossing the t's and dotting the i's makes for an orderly, predictable, and precise world -- and enables Discipline to be highly productive.
Discipline and Focus
Discipline and Focus are both Executing themes and are primarily about ways to get things done. There can be a single-mindedness about each of these themes that make them similar and also amplify each other. Discipline tends to center on personal efficiency, sweeping aside all that can get in the way of the most efficient system for getting things done. Focus tends to center on efficiency of goal achievement, sweeping aside all distractions and detours that would prevent one from accomplishing a goal. Those strong in Discipline have clarity about structure, while those strong in Focus have clarity about goals. Focus will work tirelessly to achieve a goal, while Discipline will create the most effective routine for accomplishing the tasks that make up the necessary components of the goal.
Discipline and Analytical
Analytical is primarily a way of thinking, while Discipline is primarily a way of behaving. That said, there are similarities between the two that, like Discipline and Focus, can enhance and amplify each other. Analytical is energized by finding the patterns in the details of the data; Discipline is energized by creating and implementing the details of a routine. Analytical studies the seemingly chaotic to demonstrate the underlying patterns; Discipline brings order and structure to the actual chaos. Someone I have known quite well for many years has Discipline and Analytical in her Top 5, and that combination manifests itself in the color-coded spreadsheets she has created for over two decades to organize and efficiently manage both her personal and professional life.
Discipline and Arranger
The similarities of Discipline and Arranger are found in the organizational traits that are inherent to each. And both are executing themes, so the primary focus of both is on how to get things done. Arranger likes to determine how all of the pieces and resources can be orchestrated for maximum productivity, while Discipline likes to create order, structures, and routines so that personal productivity can be achieved. Individuals high in Arranger tend to focus on team accomplishment, while those high in Discipline tend to focus on individual accomplishment. Discipline likes deadlines, details, and predictability; Arranger likes systems, processes, and multiplicity. Arranger is the conductor of the orchestra, and Discipline is the solo violinist whose impeccable technique creates a masterful performance.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Empathy
People with Empathy in their Top 5 have an uncanny ability to physically feel the emotions of others. When those around them are sad, they feel the sadness. When those around them are joyful, they experience their joy. They intuitively pick up on the nonverbal, subtle emotional cues that others give out.
To paraphrase Marvel super-hero Spiderman, their "spidey sense is tingling" whenever they start sensing they are experiencing the feelings of others. Individuals strong in Empathy talents bring emotional intelligence to a team, and as they are emotional people, they need the freedom to cry, laugh, and vent. People with high Empathy often can tell you how you are feeling even before you yourself know -- and their description is eerily accurate.
Look at the differences and similarities between Empathy and Includer, Harmony, and Individualization. All four have the common element of being relationship building themes, and the similarities are such that Includer, Harmony, and Individualization can each look like Empathy -- depending on the situation.
Empathy and Includer
Empathy has a strong awareness of the emotions of others, while Includer has a strong awareness of those who are left out. Includer wants to draw the circle wider, and Empathy wants to understand the feelings of those who are in the circle. Those with Includer in their Top 5 want to make others feel accepted and welcomed; those with Empathy in their Top 5 want to make others feel understood. Individuals with strong Includer talents know how it feels to be left out, so want to ensure that others never feel excluded. Individuals with strong Empathy talents know how it feels to have one's feelings discounted, so want to ensure that others never feel emotionally diminished.
Empathy and Harmony
Harmony can look a lot like Empathy, in that Harmony doesn't like the emotional tension of discord -- and will take steps to smooth things over and make sure everyone feels okay. Harmony wants everyone to get along; Empathy wants everyone to feel emotionally understood. Both Empathy and Harmony tend to focus on emotions. Those with Empathy in their Top 5 tend to be keenly aware of the emotions of others; those with Harmony in their Top 5 tend to be especially gifted at managing emotional volatility and variability. Harmony helps others work together, while Empathy helps elevate the awareness of the emotions of others. Harmony considers many viewpoints; Empathy senses many emotions.
Empathy and Individualization
Empathy and Individualization are both very intuitive themes. But the intuition about others is subtly different. Empathy intuitively knows how someone feels; Individualization intuitively knows who someone is. Those with strong in Empathy talents have a gift for sensing other people's feelings; those with strong Individualization talents have a gift for figuring out what make each person tick. Individuals high in Individualization are fascinated by human uniqueness, and those high in Empathy are fascinated by human emotion.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Focus
"OK, let's get back on track -- we're losing our focus here!" These words may frequently be uttered in planning meetings by those high in Focus. Focus sets goals, prioritizes, gets rid of the extraneous, and sees a clear destination -- and takes steps to arrive at that destination.
The "eye on the prize" aspect of Focus causes those with this theme in their Top 5 to positively discriminate between actions that will assist in achieving the goal and actions that will detract from attaining the goal. And those that detract are discarded.
Individuals high in Focus tend to be able to tune out distractions and concentrate -- and they are sometimes so absorbed in what they are doing they don't see or hear anything else that is happening around them. Focus is a way of getting things done, and being efficient is crucial to the achievement of goals.
Focus and Strategic
While seeing a path to a destination is common to both Focus and Strategic, these two themes are essentially different in several essential qualities. While both see a destination, Strategic considers alternate routes while Focus concentrates on a singular path. Strategic naturally widens by considering options; Focus naturally narrows by concentrating on a goal. Focus is a way to get things done -- an Executing theme, while Strategic is a way to think about alternatives -- a thinking theme. Those with strong Strategic talents often have a plan A, a plan B, and a plan C and even D. Those with strong Focus talents execute plan A as the most efficient option. When asked a question, Strategic often answers, "It depends." Focus tends to answer, "Here is the goal."
Focus and Deliberative
Both Focus and Deliberative are executing themes and concern themselves with getting work done. The differences lie in how those strong in each of these themes get work done. Focus sets a goal, charts a course, and sets out. Deliberative considers and anticipates obstacles, looking for what could go wrong. There is a caution inherent to Deliberative that is not necessarily an attribute of Focus. Deliberative wants to delay the start until all the factors that could get in the way are considered and dealt with; Focus wants to set out on the path and get moving toward the end result. Those high in Focus may become frustrated by those high in Deliberative (and vice versa), but if each learns to truly appreciate the talents of the other, Deliberative and Focus can become powerful partners.
Focus and Individualization
Focus and Individualization tend not to show up in a person's Top 5 very often, so when this occurs it is real opportunity to explore a powerful and unusual theme combination. Individualization is energized by the uniqueness of individuals, and as such might be inclined to get sidetracked from accomplishing a goal by an interesting personal story. Focus is energized by working towards a goal, and might be inclined to be oblivious to the people around him or her. However, Individualization can be a powerful additive to Focus, in that those with Individualization can help find the right people to be part of the team that enables those with Focus to achieve their goal.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Futuristic
"What's next? … Here's where we should be in 10 years. … Future generations will thank us. … We need to do some long-range planning. … Here's my vision of what we could become." These are all statements that individuals high in Futuristic have likely said or thought at one time or another.
Futuristic sees tomorrow in vivid detail, anticipates or imagines what could be, and inspires others with that vision. Futuristic is not content with the status quo, but rather is inspired but what the organization, relationship, the situation can become. Those with Futuristic in their Top 5 often spend so much time thinking about and envisioning the future that today can seem like the past.
Futuristic challenges an organization or team to think beyond quarterly results and create a plan that will bring long term success. Forecasts and projections energize those with strong Futuristic talents, and their approach to problem solving is far less concerned with how we got here than with where we are going.
Look at the similarities and differences between Futuristic and Strategic, Consistency, and Positivity.
Futuristic and Strategic
Futuristic and Strategic, both thinking themes, are very likely to show up together in someone's Top 5, so it can be difficult to consider them separately. But there are differences, and the differences, when taken together, can make for a very powerful combination. Futuristic can see a better world; Strategic can see the route to a better world. Futuristic anticipates what could be, and Strategic anticipates options. Those high in Futuristic tend to scan the horizon in order to see what is to come; those high in Strategic tend to scan the entire landscape in order to see the big picture.
Futuristic may have a vivid picture of tomorrow -- but no idea how to get there. Strategic, when presented with the vivid picture of tomorrow, can typically envision several ways to get there.
Futuristic and Consistency
While Futuristic and Strategic are likely to show up together in a person's Top 5, that is not the case with Futuristic and Consistency. The differences lie primarily in each theme's approach to the status quo. Those high in Futuristic tend to resist -- even hate -- the status quo. For them, the status quo inhibits creativity and keeps us chained to the present. On the other hand, for those high in Consistency the status quo ensures fairness and provides for the smooth and orderly conduct of the group. Futuristic anticipates and imagines what could or should be, while Consistency reduces variance and increases uniformity. Consistency is focused on the fairest and most orderly way to get things done now, while Futuristic focuses on what the world or our team will be like next year -- or 10 years forward.
Futuristic and Positivity
The Road Warrior and Star Trek movie series paint very different pictures of the future. Road Warrior is definitely dystopic, while Star Trek is more on the utopic side; one is a negative vision, and one is a positive vision. Those with Futuristic don't always have a "progress is always better" vision of the future; sometimes that vision is scary. Those with Positivity, however, bring social energy, a contagious enthusiasm, and an optimistic attitude to their work and life -- and always see the glass as half-full. Both Positivity and Futuristic impact the emotions of others. Futuristic can create images of the future that inspire others, and Positivity can lift and lighten the mood of others. When the current situation is negative, those high in Futuristic can lift their own mood by thinking about the future and what can be -- while those high in Positivity lift their own and others' moods by concentrating on the positive aspects of what is happening now.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Harmony
"Can we all get along?" These words said by Rodney King more than two decades ago are the epitome of Harmony: let's find a way to get along. Harmony is more interested in what we have in common than what our differences are; what unites us rather than what divides us.
I was having a coaching conversation with an individual with Harmony as his top theme who had done two tours in Iraq as a Military Police officer. I asked him what he liked best about his service in Iraq, and he said what he enjoyed most was getting out in the neighborhoods and talking to the residents and finding out about them and their lives -- and finding common ground. He said, "We are more alike than we are different." That is Harmony at work.
Those high in Harmony sometimes get a negative label as a pushover, someone who just "goes along to get along." While it is true that Harmony doesn't like conflict, mature Harmony doesn't just keep the peace, it makes peace -- and often times that is hard work. Harmony finds the common ground, finds areas where we can all agree, moves forward. For Harmony, conflict is unproductive. The sooner we can find agreement, Harmony asserts, the sooner we can move on and make progress.
Harmony and Belief
On the surface, Harmony and Belief seem to be very different themes, and it is true that they have very different approaches to achieving results. Those with strong Belief talents can see those with high Harmony as wishy-washy, while those with strong Harmony talents can see those with high Belief as inflexible and rigid. Belief is driven by adherence to values, and Harmony is driven by finding agreement and moving forward on those points of agreement. That does not mean that those high in Harmony do not have values; they are concerned with finding where their values mesh with the values of others so that we can see and act on our commonality. Harmony wants to do what works best; Belief wants to do what matters. The two do not have to be mutually exclusive.
Harmony and Learner
Harmony is primarily a way of building relationships, while Learner is primarily a way of thinking. Learner needs exposure to new information and experiences, while Harmony needs to find areas of agreement and common ground. Harmony is a very practical theme, focusing on doing what works; Learner is a very adventurous theme, seeking out novelty and new ideas and experiences. Those high in Learner often enjoy becoming subject matter experts, while those high in Harmony often will defer to experts in their quest to find common ground. The natural curiosity and adventurousness of Learner may lead to discomfort or friction within a group -- which those with Learner see as beneficial to the growth of the group. Those with high Harmony, on the other hand, see themselves as friction reducers: friction heats things up, slows things down, wears things out. Harmony and Learner can complement each other, as Harmony can help speed up the integration into the thinking of the team of the new information that Learner brings.
Harmony and Adaptability
Both Harmony and Adaptability are Relationship Building themes, and both have a calmness to them that is quite appealing. Harmony is even-keeled and calm because strong emotions can intensify conflict -- and conflict is completely unproductive. Adaptability's calm comes from the ability to be in the moment, to go with the flow, and focus on the now. Harmony can be very proactive, seeking to find points of agreement, beginning the dialogue that leads to compromise. Adaptability is reactive, seeing what is happening and then changing course as needed and integrating into the new direction. Harmony manages and reduces emotional volatility and variability, and Adaptability calms the waters by displaying a willingness to follow the lead of change. When Harmony arrives at the compromise, Adaptability willingly follows along.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Ideation
Those with strong Ideation talents are fascinated by ideas. A new idea makes their day, and often times the ideas come like popcorn. I had a colleague high in Ideation who said she would often vow to stay quiet during team meetings, but at around the 20-minute mark found herself clutching the edge of the table in order to keep all the ideas from bursting forth.
I see three aspects to Ideation: Creativity, Complexity, and Connectivity. Ideation can be very creative, and the creativity can take two forms. One is a blue-sky, blank-canvas approach. Some with Ideation high are at their best creating something out of nothing. The other form of creativity is reacting to and improving/changing that which already exists -- looking at something and thinking, "What if we did this, or changed this? What would it look like if we turned it around this way?"
Ideation loves complexity, often just for the sheer sake of the intricacy of it all. One individual with Ideation in his Top 5 is fascinated with Medieval European history -- not because he has Context, but because that era of history is so complex and variated. Ideation also loves to make the complex simple and find the common thread. The connectivity of Ideation comes from the ability to see and find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena or ideas. Finding the connection is a particular thrill for those high in Ideation.
Explore the similarities and differences between Ideation and Intellection, Futuristic, and Input. All of these themes are thinking themes, so there are many similarities among them. But the differences, while often subtle, are important.
Ideation and Intellection
While both Ideation and Intellection are energized with the activity of thinking about things, the approach to thinking that Ideation takes is more of that of an artist, while the approach Intellection takes is more of that of a philosopher. Ideation loves novelty, while Intellection loves theory. Intellection tends to do deep thinking about a particular subject, plumbing the depths and considering all the angles and theories. Ideation may also take a deep dive, but it is more likely to be about the possibilities and can spin off into many directions -- one thought leading to another and then another. When individuals have both Ideation and Intellection as dominant themes, they are apt to come up with creative ideas, think them through, and develop a cohesive theory for implementation.
Ideation and Futuristic
Ideation and Futuristic are quite likely to show up in an individual's Top 5, and they have very similar attributes. Ideation loves coming up with something new; Futuristic loves the inspiration that comes from envisioning what can be. Both can be seen as impractical dreamers, yet both can lift the emotions of the team with the wonder of their ideas. Where they differ is in the focus of their imaginative thinking. Ideation can be very "now" focused, thinking about the complexity of the current situation, thinking about the artist's creative process while looking at a painting, or, as noted above, trying to understand the complexity of medieval society. Futuristic imagination is about what the world may be like in 10 years, imagining what advances in technology and robotics will mean for humanity in the next 50 years, and how cool it will be when we eventually get jetpacks.
Ideation and Input
If Ideation is the artist and Intellection the philosopher in our theoretical academic community, Input is the librarian -- the collector, archiver, and resource. When Ideation says, "I've been fascinated with the Internet of Things recently," Input replies, "Ooh! I just read an article about that! Let me send you the link!" There is a utilitarian nature to Input that gives practicality to its thinking and collecting -- this may be useful to someone someday. Ideation doesn't necessarily need practicality or utility to its thinking; thinking up something new is useful in and of itself. When Ideation and Input are combined in someone's Top 5, the creative drive of Ideation is supplemented with the resource-finding of Input.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Includer
"Who else should we include? Who else can help? Is everyone informed? Has everyone had a chance to contribute?" These are questions that come naturally to those with strong Includer talents. Includer is the "we are a team" theme. Includer draws the circle wider, expands the membership, makes sure everyone feels valued.
Those high in Includer have a strong sense of what it feels like to be left out, and want to make sure no one feels that way. There is a very tolerant aspect to Includer; Individuals with Includer in their Top 5 tend to be very tolerant and accepting of different points of view, different faith positions, different life experiences. Everyone is to be valued and brings value to the team, and everyone needs to be heard. A team's success depends on its ability to collaborate, and Includer is the catalyst that leads to productive collaboration.
Includer and Harmony
Includer and Harmony are similar in that they are both Relationship Building themes with a focus on others, especially group dynamics. Both are concerned with the productivity and the emotional stability of the team, but go about it in different ways. Those with strong Includer talents sense when others are excluded and seek to draw them in; those with strong Harmony talents help others work together by finding common ground and avoiding emotional quagmires. Includer respects and invites different points of view without necessarily needing to find common ground; being heard and celebrating diversity is often enough for those high in Includer. In contrast, Harmony respects and invites different points of view precisely to find the common ground so we can find agreement and work together. Includer draws the circle wider; Harmony reduces the friction among the members in that widened circle. Includer works for acceptance of those on the outside; Harmony works for agreement of those on the inside.
Includer and Woo
There is an outreach aspect to both Includer and Woo (Winning Others Over) that make them seem very similar, and in fact the observable behaviors of each theme often mirror each other. Both Woo and Includer reach out to those beyond the circle. But the intent of the outreach of those high in Includer is in order to bring others into the circle, while the intent of the outreach of those high in Woo is to expand their network. Includer goes out, brings others in, goes out, brings others in. Woo goes out, connects with others, comes back, goes out, connects with others, comes back. Woo needs social variability, Includer needs room for everyone. Woo builds a broad social network; Includer builds an accepting and collaborative team.
Includer and Relator
While both Includer and Relator are Relationship Building themes, at their core they are very different. Those with strong Includer talents tend to widen the circle, while those with strong Relator talents tend to narrow the circle. Those high in Includer tend to naturally seek out the input of all the members of the group; those high in Relator tend to naturally seek out the input of those they know well. Includer tends to be socially accepting and tolerant; Relator tends to be socially deep, seeking intimacy and stability. Those with strong Relator talents are socially transparent; they invite their friends in. Those with strong Includer talents are socially inclusive; they invite outsiders in.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Individualization
If you've ever received the perfect present from a friend and you ask them, "How did you know I would love this?" and your friend answers, "I don't know -- I just knew it would be perfect for you," chances are your friend has Individualization among their dominant themes. People with strong Individualization talents are intuitive about, drawn to, and fascinated with the uniqueness of each person.
Those high in Individualization customize their approach to each person they connect with, and they strongly believe that the best way to treat people fairly is to treat them differently.
Individualization sees human diversity as a potential to be celebrated rather than a problem to be solved. In finding the right fit for the job, Individualization starts with the person and then finds the right job -- as opposed to starting with the job and then finding the right person.
For those strong in Individualization, the key to team success lies not in finding or developing the perfect process, but rather lies in finding and developing individual strengths so that each team member can make their unique contribution.
Explore the differences and similarities between Individualization and Woo, Connectedness, and Maximizer.
Individualization and Woo
For those on the receiving end of either Woo or Individualization, the feeling can be the same: an intense interest in me, which makes me feel special. For Woo, that interest is about the thrill of meeting new a new person, and serves the purpose of building the network. Once the connection is made, those high in Woo may move on to make another connection. For Individualization, the thrill is in the discovery of uniqueness, and finding out what makes each person tick. Woo needs social variety and a broad network of people with which to connect; Individualization can be very content with a smaller group and is fascinated with the seemingly endless uniqueness of each person on in the group.
Individualization and Connectedness
Both Individualization and Connectedness are Relationship Building themes, but go about building relationships in different ways. Individualization homes in on what is unique about each individual, while Connectedness focuses on the relationship each individual has with the broader reality. Connectedness tends to make relationships by connecting the experiences of others with their own experience -- "Oh I used to live in New Jersey, too!" or "My brother is also a psychiatrist!" Individualization tends to make relationships by focusing on what is unique about the experiences of others -- "I've never been to that part of New Jersey -- what's it like?" or "what drew you to the field of psychiatry?" Individualization customizes; Connectedness integrates.
Individualization and Maximizer
While Individualization is primarily a relationship building theme, Maximizer is chiefly an Influencing theme. When it comes to people, Individualization tends to be more "now" focused, seeing what is currently unique about a person. Maximizer tends to be more about what people can become -- good to great, great to excellent. Both themes tend to sort. Those with strong Maximizer talents sort between good and great, and those with strong Individualization talents sort between one person and another. Maximizer is drawn to excellence; Individualization is drawn to uniqueness. Individualization loves seeing people getting to do what they do best; Maximizer loves getting a maximum return on investment of effort.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Input
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 CliftonStrengths 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.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Intellection
Several years ago while I was watching Late Night With David Letterman, Dave turned to his band leader Paul Shaffer and said, with self-deprecating humor, "You know, Paul, there's no 'off' position on the genius switch." I always laugh when I remember that image, but it's the phrase that I think best fits Intellection.
Always thinking, always pondering, always the internal hum of the turbines of the mind. Satchel Paige is said to have mused, "Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits." Intellection cannot relate to that quote, because there is no time that is not thinking time.
For those high in Intellection, thinking is synonymous with doing. Individuals who have Intellection in their Top 5 are introspective and need time for musing and reflection. "Let me think about it and get back to you" are words those high in Intellection utter on a regular basis. Descartes famous phrase "I think, therefore I am" succinctly sums up the point of view of Intellection.
Explore the differences and similarities between Intellection- a thinking theme -- and Learner, Input, and Analytical -- three other thinking themes.
Intellection and Learner
Intellection and Learner are both themes that share an innate inquisitive nature. Intellection, however, is characterized by deep inquiry into a subject, while Learner tends to be characterized by broad curiosity, perhaps about a variety of subjects. As mentioned in a previous post, in our theoretical academic community Intellection tends to be the philosopher, while Learner tends to be the student or professor. Those with strong Intellection talents need time for reflection and meditation; those with strong Learner talents need exposure to new information and experiences. Intellection tends to be introspective, going deep within to ponder. Learner tends to be more outward focused, looking outside of oneself to find, experience, and acquire new information.
Intellection and Input
As is the case with Learner, Input shares with Intellection an innate inquisitiveness -- both themes ask a lot of questions. For Intellection, the questions are often unspoken and internal: "Why is that? I wonder why? What is going on here? What if I looked at it this way?" For Input, the questions are usually asked of another person, and are typically of the "can you tell me more?" variety. Those with Intellection in their Top 5 tend to take an inquiring approach to growth and learning, while those with Input in their Top 5 tend to take and acquiring approach to growth and learning. Individuals high in Input contribute tangible tools and relevant resources that help a team accomplish its goals; individuals high in Intellection contribute depth of wisdom and clarity that can help a group understand its purpose and goals.
Intellection and Analytical
If Intellection is the philosopher, Analytical is the scientist. Again, both are questioning themes. Intellection asks deep and profound questions about the essence of an idea; Analytical ask probing questions about the soundness of a theory -- "prove it to me" guides the inquiry of Analytical. Both Intellection and Analytical need time to think, to ponder, to examine. Those with Analytical in their Top 5 tend to think about data, facts, and discovering patterns; those with Intellection in their Top 5 tend to think about concepts and theories -- because the theoretical is the precursor to the practical. Analytical boils things down to their essence; Intellection drills deep and plumbs the depths.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Learner
"Oh, you mean there's a class I can take on that? … I always loved school! … There's a webinar series I want to sign up for! … I've just started a new job, and there are several books my new manager recommended and I can't wait to read them!" These are all statements that would tend to resonate with individuals who have Learner in their Top 5.
Learners, quite simply, love to learn. Often times it is the process of learning itself that excites and energizes Learner talents. I once had a colleague with Learner sitting at number one in his Top 5, and every year he would take a class on something that had absolutely nothing to do with his employment. One year he took classes on installing all kinds of flooring. Another year he took flying lessons. Another year he learned French. The utility of what he was going to learn wasn't the driving factor; it was his level of interest in the subject.
Learners follow the things that interest them, and they are always interested in learning something new. If a subject area is of deep interest to them or particularly relevant to their jobs, those high in Learner may very well seek mastery in that area -- the idea of being a subject matter expert is quite appealing to those with strong Learner talents.
Look at the differences and similarities between Learner and Achiever, Ideation, and Focus.
Learner and Achiever
Both Learner and Achiever are two of the most likely themes to show up in someone's Top 5, based on over 15 million responses to the Clifton Strengths Assessment. This can be a very useful paring, because Achiever can give a practical application to that which Learner learns. Individuals high in Learner enjoy learning information; those high in Achiever enjoy learning to get things done. Learner values new information, new experiences, and enjoys getting homework done. Achiever values new items on the "to-do" list, being productive, and enjoys getting tasks completed. For those high in Achiever, the value of a task is getting it completed; for those high in Learner the value of a task is what you learn while doing it.
Learner and Ideation
Both Learner and Ideation are thinking themes, so ideas, concepts, theories, and knowledge are central to each theme. But there are significant differences to how all this thinking is done. Those with dominant Learner talents tend to prefer a more systematic approach to acquiring new information -- taking a class, participating in a webinar, reading a textbook. Ideation can tend to be more random, less prescriptive, and less dependent on other sources -- be they teachers, books, articles, etc. Both Learner and Ideation appreciate and need novelty, but for Ideation the novelty comes from within -- one's own creative thoughts -- while for Learner the novelty tends to come from without -- books, classes, experience, etc. Those high in Learner can keep a team on the cutting edge of their field by learning and applying what is new; those high in Ideation can keep a team on the cutting edge of creativity and innovation by challenging status quo thinking.
Learner and Focus
Learner is a way of thinking; Focus is a way of executing. Those with Learner in their Top 5 are driven to pursue their interests; those with Focus in their Top 5 are driven to pursue their goals. As such, for Learner interests guide intention; for Focus intention guides interests. Focus is characterized by single-mindedness, while Learner is characterized by variety of experiences. Individuals strong in Focus talents will keep the team on track to persevere until the goal is reached; individuals strong in Learner talents will bring new information to the team that might change the route or even the goal itself. When paired either together in an individual's Top 5 or as complementary partnerships of two people, Learner and Focus can be a powerful combination that results in mastery, determination, and achievement.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Maximizer
The title of Jim Collin's bestseller, Good to Great, is not particularly inspiring to those with Maximizer in their Top 5. Now a book entitled, Great to Excellent -- that would be motivating to a Maximizer!
Maximizer is driven to take what is already great and make it superb. Excellence is the standard, and nothing less will do. Maximizer seeks a maximum return on investment, and is choosy in whom and in what to invest. Those high in Maximizer love to take A performers and turn them into A+ All Stars. Maximizers focus on quality over quantity, and would rather do a few things with excellence than be average at a lot of things. Maximizer also sees focusing on building strengths -- rather than fixing weaknesses -- as the most effective and efficient route to success.
Individuals high in Maximizer raise the bar for their teams and drive them to pursue outstanding performance. "Good enough" is never good enough, and is a concept most Maximizers eschew with gusto. Taking the easy route is not the road taken when the more difficult path will yield superior results. Those with strong Maximizer talents tend to evaluate rather than celebrate; after all it could always be better, and improvement is always an option to be followed.
Look at the differences and similarities between Maximizer and Competition, Strategic, and Restorative.
Maximizer and Competition
Competition and Maximizer can look a lot a like -- they are both Influencing themes, and both have a characteristic driven-ness about them. Competition is driven to win; Maximizer is driven to be the best. In order to be the best, winning over others may have to occur. But it's not beating the competition that drives Maximizer; it is the assurance that excellence has been achieved. Those high in Competition compare themselves with others to see where they stand and seek to move ahead of their best competitors; those high in Maximizer compare themselves with their own personal bests and look to excellence for comparison. Competition aspires to be number one; Maximizer aspires to meet or exceed standards of excellence.
Maximizer and Strategic
Maximizer is a way of influencing others; Strategic is a way of thinking about alternatives. Maximizer influences by raising the bar, pointing out excellence, investing in talent to build strength. Strategic considers options, anticipates possible alternatives, creates back-up plans. Maximizer and Strategic both have a sorting aspect to them; Strategic sorts between options, while Maximizer sorts between good and great. When Maximizer and Strategic are combined either in one person or in a dynamic partnership between two individuals, the result can be a focus on excellence that incorporates the best option to achieve it.
Maximizer and Restorative
These two themes are very unlikely to show up together in one individual's Top 5, and for a very good reason: Maximizer wants to take what is already working well and make it superb, while Restorative wants to take what is broken and restore it to wholeness. This can create conflict between those who have one or the other of these themes in their Top 5; individuals strong in Maximizer can become frustrated with those with Restorative -- and vice versa. But if each appreciates the other's talent, these two can work together very productively. High Restorative can help high Maximizer to not avoid problems (which Maximizer can do), and high Maximizer can help high Restorative see when it is time to move on. In other words, they can bring each other balance that improves the effectiveness and efficiency of the team.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Positivity
"Wow that sounds like fun! Count me in!" said someone high in Positivity -- a lot. Positivity brings uplifting emotional stimulation to just about any group, team, or situation. If it's not fun, let's make it fun.
Positivity sees the bright side, celebrates the win, rallies the troops. Individuals with Positivity in their Top 5 are quick to smile, laugh, give praise. The glass is always half full. It isn't that people strong in the Positivity theme are unrealistic about the negativity and problems that exist in their lives and in the world. It's that they see attitude is a choice, and they choose to have a positive attitude in the face of adversity.
They understand at a deep level the quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln: "Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." Individuals with Positivity in their Top 5 choose to be happy, choose to see the upside, choose to find the silver lining. That makes them attractive to others, and their positive outlook forms the foundation of all their relationships.
Look at the similarities and differences between Positivity and Woo, Adaptability, and Harmony.
Positivity and Woo
As stated in a previous Compare and Contrast, Positivity, Woo, and Communication tend to show up in pairs or as a trio -- if an individual has one in their Top 5 one or both of the others tend to be close by. Both Positivity and Woo (Winning Others Over) are themes that influence others, even though Positivity is a relationship building theme. Woo is about social influence, and Positivity is about emotional influence. This emotional influence builds strong relationships. Positivity brings a contagious energy and enthusiasm to social situations; Woo is enthusiastic about social situations and the opportunity to meet new people. Positivity needs freedom to experience the joy of life and contributes lightness and positivity to their relationships. Woo needs an expanding social network and contributes energy and enthusiasm to their social networks.
Positivity and Adaptability
Both Positivity and Adaptability are essentially relationship building themes, and both have a quality about them that attracts others to them. The attractiveness of Adaptability lies in the tendency of those with high Adaptability to give their undivided attention to whoever they are with at the moment. The attractiveness of Positivity lies in the tendency of those with high Positivity to lift the spirits and give joy to whoever they are with at the moment. Adaptability tends to be game for whatever fun Positivity cooks up, and together they are fun to be around.
Positivity and Harmony
Harmony is another relationship building theme, and the goal of both Positivity and Harmony is the same: Let's all get along and work together well. That said, those high in Harmony and those high in Positivity go about achieving that goal differently. Harmony listens to different points of view to find areas of agreement and compromise, thereby reducing or eliminating conflict so progress can be made. Positivity lightens the mood, gets everyone laughing, celebrates the accomplishments of the team, and creates an atmosphere of positive, enthusiastic camaraderie so that progress can be made. There are different ways to get along, and both Positivity and Harmony are especially adept at finding those ways.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Relator
If you have Relator as one of your Signature Themes of talent, it's very likely that you have an inner circle -- a small group of friends that you've likely had for a long time, maybe even since childhood. And that inner circle is hard to get into, and even harder to get kicked out of. Relator is selective, and tends to be slow and cautious in establishing relationships.
There is an authenticity about those strong in Relator talents that draws others to them, that makes others want to trust them. This is one of the paradoxical attributes of Relator: People tend to want to open up to those high in Relator -- far more so than those with high Relator want to open up with them until they get to know them. I call it the "trustability" factor of Relator -- Relators are trustworthy, don't betray confidences, and are genuine and authentic because they themselves value authenticity.
Those with Relator in their Top 5 enjoy working hard with people they know and trust, and given the choice between attending a party where they would get to meet a lot of new people or having dinner with a few close friends, Relator chooses the latter.
Explore the similarities and differences between Relator and Empathy, Individualization, and Developer. Like Relator, all three of these themes are primarily relationship building themes, so they each have much in common with Relator.
Relator and Empathy
Relator and Empathy are similar in that each brings a sensitivity to the feelings of others. However, with Empathy that sensitivity is broadly distributed while with Relator that sensitivity is narrowly focused. Those high in Empathy can sense and feel the emotions of others -- prior relationship or any relationship notwithstanding. But those high in Relator can sense and feel the emotions of those they know well -- their inner circle. I call this "Relator empathy." Empathy brings emotional intelligence to any situation; Relator brings social depth and transparency. Relator tends toward social depth, valuing intimacy and relational stability; Empathy tends toward emotional depth, valuing feeling and emotional expressiveness.
Relator and Individualization
Those with strong Relator talents enjoy close relationships, and those high in Individualization are intrigued by the uniqueness of each person. This can make the outcome of these two themes seem very similar; both Relator and Individualization want to know others. Individualization is more intuitive and one sided; "I know who you are." Relator has more of a seeking aspect, as well as qualities of mutuality; "I want to know you and be known by you." While those high in Relator tend to want to get to know more about the people closest to me, those high in Individualization tend to be intrigued by the uniqueness of those they are currently with. Individualization brings insight into people; Relator brings intimacy with people through interaction.
Relator and Developer
Both Relator and Developer have an investment component to them. Those strong in Relator talents invest in their relationships with those close to them, while those strong in Developer talents invest in the growth and potential of those around them. For Relator, the focus is on the potential in the relationship; for Developer the focus is on the potential in the person. Individuals high in Relator want to get to know others -- "I want to know you and be known by you." Individuals high in Developer want to help others realize their potential -- "I want to help you grow." There may or may not be mutuality in the relationship Developer cultivates; but for Relator mutuality is a must.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Responsibility
Dependable. Trustworthy. Productive. Reliable. Solid. Owner. All these words can be used to describe those with Responsibility in their Top 5. Responsibility is one of the themes most likely to show up in the Top 5 of the more than 15 million individuals who have taken the CliftonStrengths assessment, which means there are a lot of people out there for whom follow-through, getting it right, and doing it on time are core values.
Responsibility is a very productive theme, and it is externally motivated: "If I said I would do it, you can count on me to get it done when I said I would. I won't let you down." It's not so much the feeling of checking it off the list that motivates those with high Responsibility; rather it is the deep satisfaction that comes from having a reputation as one who keeps their commitments -- 100% of the time. "You can count on me" is a phrase those with strong Responsibility talents tend to say often -- and like saying it, because it is true. Utterly dependable is the brand of Responsibility.
Responsibility and Maximizer
One of the similarities between Responsibility and Maximizer lies in the output of their work -- both Responsibility and Maximizer tend to produce work of exceptionally high quality. But the motivation for producing quality comes from a very different place for each theme. Those high in Responsibility produces a high quality of work because they have a commitment to doing what is right; those high in Maximizer produce a high quality of work because they have a commitment to excellence. Those strong in Maximizer talents are committed to turning something strong into something superb, while those with strong Responsibility talents are committed to taking psychological ownership of what they say and do. Maximizer feels unfulfilled when failing to meet or exceed a standard of excellence, while Responsibility fills guilt when failing to do something right.
Responsibility and Belief
Responsibility and Belief can look a lot alike -- especially because there is a strong values component to each theme. Belief makes sacrifices for things that are important; Responsibility keeps promises and follows through on commitments. For Responsibility, however, the values orientation tends to be more personal and relational than for Belief. Belief is driven to act with integrity, Responsibility is driven to serve. For those high in Responsibility, values are best demonstrated in make commitments and keeping commitments to others; for those high in Belief values are best demonstrated in altruistic acts. Responsibility says, "Others can see my values by the way I keep my commitments;" Belief says "Others can see my values by the causes I am committed to."
Responsibility and Discipline
Both Responsibility and Discipline have a reliability factor to them. That reliability for Responsibility is more external, and for Discipline it is more internal. Individuals with Responsibility in their Top 5 tend to keep their promises and follow their commitments, and those with Discipline in their Top 5 tend to plan in advance and the follow the plan. Both attributes, while motivationally different, make Discipline and Responsibility very reliable. Those high in Discipline meet deadlines because it makes the feel good; those high in Responsibility meet deadlines because it makes others respect them. Both Discipline and Responsibility can be counted on to complete the task on time.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Restorative
"Houston, we have a problem." That line from the movie "Apollo 13" is a phrase that makes those with Restorative light up in anticipation. Restorative loves to solve problems. Finding a solution to the problem is always the goal, but the very activity of problem solving is energizing in and of itself to those high in Restorative.
Those with Restorative in their Top 5 love to pull the problem apart, examine it from all angles, find the root causes, understand all the aspects, and then find solutions. Some individuals strong in Restorative like to fix things -- a broken appliance, restoring a vintage auto, restoring antique furniture, fixing a buggy computer. Others strong in Restorative like fixing systems and processes.
Still others are drawn to "fixing" people -- helping them understand and find solutions to problems they are facing in their personal or professional life and relationships. And for some high in Restorative, it doesn't matter if it's a thing, a system, or a person -- they just like understanding and solving problems.
Restorative and Harmony
There is a certain focus on getting things in working order that unite Restorative and Harmony -- the end result of the work of both Restorative and Harmony is the smooth functioning of a system, team, or relationship. But Restorative tends to be more focused on and adept at finding and understanding the root causes and possible solutions, whereas Harmony tends to be more focused on finding the areas of friction and reducing them or finding the areas of agreement and capitalizing on them. Harmony seeks to eliminate the waste of emotional energy; Restorative looks for the bugs in the system. Those with strong Restorative talents love finding solutions; those with strong Harmony talents love finding areas of agreement. One of their big differences lies in the tendency of Harmony to hope problems will go away, while Restorative jumps in to find solutions -- knowing that ignoring the problem can very well make it worse.
Restorative and Input
Both those high in Restorative and those high in Input can ask a lot of questions. Their questions, however, tend to be of a different nature. Restorative asks questions about a problem, seeking to understand or get to the root of it so the problem can be solved. Input asks questions seeking more information -- oftentimes simply because it's interesting. Yet both Restorative and Input have a helpfulness aspect to them. Restorative loves to provide help by finding solutions to problems, and Input loves to provide relevant and tangible tools that can be helpful. Restorative is a trouble-shooter; Input is a resource collector.
Restorative and Analytical
Restorative and Analytical can look remarkably similar. Both tend to ask a lot of questions, both examine and explore what is in front of them, and individuals high in Restorative as well as those high in Analytical can be seen as adept trouble-shooters and excellent problem solvers. But with their similarities, there are significant differences as well. Restorative is primarily an Executing theme, while Analytical is primarily a thinking theme. Analytical tends to be perfectly satisfied with identifying the problem through an examination of the data and asking all the right questions -- without having to actually carry out the steps; that can be left to someone else. But for those high in Restorative, the whole purpose of analyzing data and asking probing questions is so that they themselves can implement the steps and solve the problem.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Self-Assurance
The theme of Self-Assurance is characterized by a strong internal compass: those high in Self-Assurance are confident in their own ability to lead their own lives, make the right decisions, and successfully reach goals without much advice or help from others. There is a self-reliance to the Self-Assurance theme that is particularly influential; people tend to follow those who know where they are going.
But Self-Assurance is not swayed by the size of the crowd that is following -- or if anyone is following at all. Those with strong Self-Assurance talents will go it alone if necessary, because this is the path they are supposed to follow. Individuals with Self-Assurance in their Top 5 don't tend to ask for a lot of advice, and when they do it is typically to confirm what they are already thinking.
Those high in Self-Assurance tend to be seen by others as risk-takers. But the reality is from the perspective of Self-Assurance, if I feel like this action is the right one to take, it isn't risky at all. Those with high Self-Assurance need to be in control of their own destiny, and they take steps to ensure that they are. They are confident in what they do well, and not threatened by others who are talented in areas where they are not. They will recruit and recognize talented individuals, secure in their own abilities.
Self-Assurance and Belief
Certainty is a common denominator of both Self-Assurance and Belief, so the outcomes and behaviors can look similar. For Self-Assurance, that certainty comes from trust in oneself, while for Belief certainty comes from trust in truth outside of oneself -- values, ethics, mission, etc. Those with strong Belief talents are passionate and uncompromising about core values; those with strong Self-Assurance are internally confident in the midst of uncertainty. This "unwavering" quality of both Self-Assurance and Belief is attractive to those looking for someone to follow. Belief can be seen as rigid or inflexible when it comes to core values; Self-Assurance can be seen as rigid and inflexible when it comes to personal autonomy.
Self-Assurance and Strategic
Both Self-Assurance and Strategic are forward-looking and forward-moving themes. Those with strong Self-Assurance talents internally know the best route to take; those with strong Strategic themes assess options to determine the best route to take. Strategic sorts between options; Self-Assurance trusts intuition. Individuals high in Strategic look outward with great peripheral vision, seeing the entire playing field; those high in Self-Assurance look inward, paying attention to their internal compass. Strategic tends to have a back-up plan and makes course corrections along the way; those high in Self-Assurance tend to be confident in the original path they've set out upon.
Self-Assurance and Discipline
Both Self-Assurance and Discipline are part of a theme "package" centering around an orientation towards self. As such, both themes display a confidence about them that makes them somewhat similar in some aspects. Self-Assurance is primarily about self-confidence, whereas Discipline is primarily about self-control. But while those with Discipline need structure, predictability, and routine, Self-Assurance needs freedom, autonomy, and independence. Both have a confidence in their decision making. The confidence from those high in Discipline comes from having a well thought out and detailed plan -- and then executing the plan. The confidence from those high in Self-Assurance comes from within -- knowing or feeling that this is the right direction to take, and then taking it.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Significance
According to a recent Washington Post article, the top three fears of U.S. citizens are:
3. Bugs, snakes and other animals
1. Public speaking
Given that the No. 1 fear is public speaking, it is little wonder that Significance is one of the least likely CliftonStrengths themes to appear in someone's Top 5. People high in Significance want to be public, to be seen, to be heard, to be noticed.
Those with Significance in their Top 5 are concerned with the influence they have now and the legacy they will leave to future generations. Their Significance theme drives them to do important work, take on projects that will make a difference, to step to the front when others shrink back. Seeking to be credible, professional, and successful drive those with Significance to work hard and make an impact on the world.
If we use the image of a race, a competitor with strong Significance talents will run faster when there are fans in the stand watching. Significance craves feedback as a means to improve performance -- being watched and evaluated are keys to success for Significance. When he was in his 90s, Bob Hope was asked why he didn't retire and go fishing. His response: "Simple. The fish don't applaud." That is Significance in a nutshell.
Significance and Command
Both Significance and Command talents are often associated with individuals with big personalities. Both Significance and Command can have a sense of presence about them; when individuals high in Significance and those high in Command enter a room, people take notice. Command wants to be in charge, Significance wants to be noticed. Those high in Command tend to exert control in situations that seem out of control; those high in Significance tend to gravitate toward an audience that will bring out their best. Significance is comfortable in the spotlight; Command is comfortable in the driver's seat. Those strong in Command talents will often use emotion to break the logjam; those strong in Significance talents will often stimulate positive emotions in others to garner support.
Significance and Self-Assurance
Significance and Self-Assurance are sometimes characterized as the two sides of the ego coin: Significance is the outward pull toward self-esteem, and Self-Assurance is the inward push toward self-esteem. Those with high Self-Assurance don't seek or necessarily want the positive reaction of others to their accomplishments; those with high Significance are driven to be successful because of the positive reaction of others to their accomplishments. There is a confidence that is associated with both themes; the confidence of those with high Self-Assurance is an inward motivation that drives decisions, while the confidence of those with high Significance comes from the enthusiastic response of others to what they have done.
Significance and Competition
If Significance runs faster when there are fans in the stands cheering, Competition runs faster when there is someone running just as fast in the next lane. Both themes have an others component to them; those high in Significance perform in order to gain the feedback of others -- and thus improve performance, while those high in Competition measure themselves against others -- and thus improve performance. Those with strong Competition talents are acutely aware of their competition and strive to win; those with strong Significance talents are acutely aware of who may be watching and strive to be noticed -- especially by those who are significant to them.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Strategic
Strategic is one of the biggest buzzwords in business today. Leaders and managers want their teams to be "strategic"; employees are urged to think "strategically" instead of "tactically" -- to "play chess" instead of "playing checkers"; and nearly every list of competencies that one encounters in a performance review has a "strategic thinking" category that employees are supposed to master if they have even the slightest hope of being promoted.
The word is so overused and overdefined that it has lost almost all its meaning. Yet in the taxonomy of CliftonStrengths themes of talent, Strategic has a very specific definition -- and what's more, Strategic is the fifth-most-commonly identified theme among the over 12 million individuals who have taken the CliftonStrengths assessment.
In a nutshell, people strong in the Strategic theme spot relevant patterns in any given scenario, and can quickly create alternate and multiple ways to proceed. Where most see only complexity, they see patterns and alternatives. Strategic is about considering all the options, selecting the best one, and then moving down that path -- often before anyone else does. It's a specific way of seeing the world.
Look at the similarities and differences between Strategic and Arranger, Adaptability, and Connectedness.
Strategic and Arranger
Both Strategic and Arranger are what I call "flexibility" themes -- each have an inherent flexibility about them that helps individuals with strong talents in either of these themes make changes -- and often make them quickly. But there are subtle yet important differences that set them apart. Strategic is a way of thinking, Arranger is a way of doing. While there are many similarities between Strategic and Arranger, here are what I see as the subtle differences: Strategic is more 30,000 feet, while Arranger is on the ground. Strategic sees possible future options -- what can we do -- while Arranger tends to see the best configuration of what is in the here and now. Arranger puts all the pieces together for maximum productivity, and Strategic sees all the options and selects the best path for efficient execution. Arranger acts, Strategic thinks. Arranger is a way of moving things forward; Strategic is a way of figuring things out.
Strategic and Adaptability
The speed of Strategic can often look like Adaptability in action, but the Strategic worldview is fundamentally different from the worldview of Adaptability. At its core, Strategic is anticipatory, while the basic nature of Adaptability is reactive. Adaptability reacts to and considers "what is;" Strategic anticipates and plans for what "could be." Strategic is about thinking about future options, while Adaptability takes action based on responding to the current situation. Adaptability takes life as it comes; Strategic anticipates alternative plans based on what life may bring. Strategic sees the big picture; Adaptability sees the immediate picture. Adaptability focuses full attention on being "in the moment," while Strategic considers what paths might be available to take when this moment passes.
Strategic and Connectedness
Strategic can sometimes be mistaken for -- or look like -- Connectedness (and vice versa) due to the fact that often times Strategic sees the chain reactions of events and plans: This leads to that, which leads to this, and so on. But even with these similarities, Strategic and Connectedness are not the same. Strategic is about alternative plans; Connectedness is about interlinked relationships. Both Strategic and Connectedness see the big picture, but Strategic sees that big picture in terms of processes, systems, and potential options -- while Connectedness sees that big picture in terms of webs, connections, consequences, and relationships. Strategic sees processes and alternate paths towards a goal; Connectedness sees the intertwined relationships between events, people, or concepts. Connectedness tends to believe that everything happens for a reason and that there are few consequences; Strategic tends to believe that there are alternate paths to the same outcome and that there is a best way to get to that outcome.
CliftonStrengths Theme: Woo
The CliftonStrengths theme of Woo is actually an acronym that stands for Winning Others Over. Individuals with strong Woo talents are natural networkers, love meeting new people, and easily break the ice and make connections.
Woo is socially fast, easily and quickly making personal connections. Those high in Woo tend to love social situations where they can meet new people -- they are energized by the opportunity to find about someone they don't know.
Once the connection is made, those with Woo in their Top 5 tend to be ready to wrap up the conversation and move on and meet someone new. In the world of Woo, there are no strangers -- just friends that haven't yet been met.
In this installment of Compare and Contrast, I look at the similarities and differences between Woo and Self-Assurance, Competition, and Futuristic.
Woo and Self-Assurance
Both Woo and Self-Assurance demonstrate a degree of confidence. Those high in Woo are confident in social settings, while those with high Self-Assurance are confident in their decision making abilities. Self-Assurance is content to go it alone, while Woo needs companions on the journey. Individuals with strong Self-Assurance talents tend to be independent and at peace with themselves; those with strong Woo talents tend to be interdependent and are at peace when they have made several new social connections. Those with Self-Assurance high and those with Woo high can form very effective partnerships, with Self-Assurance confidently charting the course and Woo enlisting others to go along.
Woo and Competition
Both Woo and Competition have a common element: winning. Woo is about winning others over, and Competition is about winning over others. Those high in Woo thrive when they are creating a large social network, and need others to be part of that network. Those high in competition thrive in environments where they can see where they stand in comparison to others in the network, and need others with which to compare their performance. Woo makes people feel part of the team; Competition reminds team members the goal is to win. Those high in Woo tend to love meeting people they haven't met before; those high in Competition love a chance to go against the best.
Woo and Futuristic
Woo can tend to be a very here and now theme, focusing who is in front of me now. Futuristic, by definition, is not so much focused on the here and now but rather what tomorrow may bring. Both themes share a discontent with the status quo. Woo chafes against a static or shrinking network, wanting to grow, change, and expand the network. Futuristic chafes against a static environment, constantly energized and envisioning the growth and change that tomorrow can bring. Both also have a natural winsomeness about them. Those high in Woo tend to be personally winsome and attract others to their energy and likability; for those high in Futuristic their winsomeness comes from the attractiveness and inspiration of their vision of the future.