This past week Gallup gave me an opportunity to download the details of the StrengthsFinder™ test I took several years ago. When I originally completed the test while reading Now, Discover Your Strengths, the test only offered insights into my Top 5 of 34 strengths. I couldn’t wait to see the rest of my results (I’m kind of a personality test junky). So, I downloaded my results.
First, I had to look at strengths 6-10. None were all that surprising. They fell into the core Strategic Thinking and Executing “themes” that account for 80% of my top 10 strengths. Second, strengths 11-15 followed the same strategic theme with a couple of Relationship Building strengths thrown in (Can’t wait to share that with my wife.). Because I’m an insecure nut case, I jumped pass strengths 16-33 and made a beeline to number 34 at the bottom of the list! Please, tell me that I am not the only person who does this type of stuff!
I was greeted by a 2X4 to my head!!
In the irony of ironies, I learn that my lowest strength (i.e. greatest weakness) is…drumroll, please…Communication! Gallup defines the strength this way: “People exceptionally talented in the Communication theme generally find it easy to put their thoughts into words. They are good conversationalists and presenters.”
Go figure, I’m a marketer who cannot communicate.
Reviewing the results got me thinking about the many talented people I have managed over the years who have taken Strengths Finder, DiSC, Myers-Briggs, or some other personality assessment and glommed onto their results as if they were either gospel or total lies.
I suggest the following to leaders:
- Regularly set a tone of self-awareness and learning at team meetings, etc. not just during a formal HR or flavor-of-the-day initiative. Personality tests are just ONE way of doing this as a team.
- Take multiple assessments. Never let your team take just one assessment. It’s an injustice to them as human beings.
- Be the leader who takes the risk of self-disclosing first about your personality, including your feelings of inadequacy, disappointment, AND excitement.
- Have self-deprecating fun and laugh at the results for yourself and your team members.
- Don’t refer to others solely as a “type” (e.g. INFP, Driver, CD, Red, Yellow, 6 or 9, etc.).
- Align team members to roles that exploit their gifts/strengths even if there is no “firm-sanctioned” role or job description.
- Pair up team members with complementary strengths and weaknesses in both daily tasks and skunkworks
- Don’t do like I do and let your team start ruminating on No. 34 or 33 or 32 or 31…strengths (er weaknesses), but if someone needs to vent, listen.
As leaders and test takers, we have a responsibility to use these “flavor of the day” HR initiatives for what they are…tools. These assessments never define our totality or bind our potential. They give us data points to build self-awareness—nothing more. What we choose to do with them is up to us. We can use them to pigeon-hole ourselves and others or we can use them to grow. Take advantage of the test opportunity, but don’t get caught up in the results.
I hope you’re able to understand what I’m saying, particularly given the fact that communication is not high on my list of strengths.