Lead Through Strengths

StrengthsFinder Legit? Valid? Accurate?

If you're wondering, you're actually just like Sara Regan, the Lead Through Strengths facilitator in this interview. Before being exposed to the tool, she was a bit skeptical about it.

Usually, before doing some strengths finding with the team, one or two among us are wondering if psychometric tools are accurate. Is StrengthsFinder legit? Is it valid? The CliftonStrengths Assessment has not escaped such skepticism from some of our participants.

You're not alone. Many of us come to these tools with a cautious eye. We want to know that it's more than parlor games. We hope for a tool that allows for more than a 4-hour kumbaya team building event at work.

Most of the time, skeptical people wonder, "Hmmmm, is StrengthsFinder legit, or is my boss making me go to a gimmicky feel-good-training today?" Other times, it's an industrial organizational psychologist from the HR department who wants to know about the peer-reviewed literature on the tool. Either way, people like having the confidence of knowing that the tool is tested and valid.

Here’s the transcript of this episode where Lisa interviews Sara about her journey from being a skeptic to someone who fully embraces StrengthsFinder.

Lisa: Hello everyone, you're listening to Lead Through Strengths, and today it's both me, Lisa and Sara Regan. You've heard a lot from me over the years and it's about time to get some new angles from some other facilitators here at Lead Through Strengths. 

So let's get right into some fresh angles on strengths, from Sara. 

From Skeptical Customer To StrengthsFinder Facilitator: What Prompted The Change?

So Sara, sometimes we walk into a StrengthsFinder event. We're doing CliftonStrengths kickoff, it's a big thing. And you know, there are a couple of people in the room who are really skeptics. They wonder, "is StrengthsFinder legit, and is this an accurate tool?"

Tell me, how did you come to CliftonStrengths, and have you ever experienced that either in your own skepticism or other people in the room and how has that gone for you? 

Sara: Absolutely. I think at this point, I almost expect that there will be a skeptic or two in the room. And I, myself, also had that skepticism, when I was first introduced to StrengthsFinder. I think for me it was the opportunity of “let's bring the team together.” 

I was leading a group of around maybe 25 people or so at that time, and I thought I know team building is a good thing. We do this from time to time. We'll have coffee, we'll have bagels. Maybe people will get to know each other a little bit more. But I didn't really expect there to be much of a profound takeaway. 

But for me, I was really struck by reading my own report and feeling like it really did help to highlight some things that I was aware of. So my skepticism really certainly changed after I got to look at my own results. And then in seeing the results of the team members too, I mean it just really dramatically changed the way I thought about my work, my career, the types of things I said “yes” to to the type of things I said “no” to, and how to position other people for success as well. 

So even though I was a skeptic, I think I was a quick convert, and really felt like even in my homegrown fashion, I was doing strengths at any chance that I could with new team members or other people that I worked with. 

So now as a facilitator, I expect that there will be the skeptics who wonder if StrengthsFinder is legit. I think one of the things that really helps is that people have some of the research underpinnings, and to be able to see that ahead of time there will be people who will want to understand how was this validated, what's the reliability, why did they choose these questions... 

So to make that available for people, whether it's before or after a session, that can help as well. 

Lisa: Yes, that's great. We always do that in the pre-work where it's like, “Are you one of the people who wants to validate whether StrengthsFinder is legit? Here's a deep meta analysis if you want to look into it. It's a 40 page technical report with all of the design elements and reliability data from Gallup's behavioral scientists. (and for those of you who will gloss over it, just come to the session - you don't have to read it).” 

So, speaking of legit...you have a master's degree in psychology, don't you? 

Sara: I do. 

Lisa: So I can imagine with that kind of point of view, you might have needed to dig in when you first got exposed to the book StrengthsFinder 2.0.

So when you saw your own results, let's say you're fast forwarded. You're good with the tool. Now you've looked at the validity and the reliability statistics and you're feeling good. You believe that StrengthsFinder is legit. Now you look at your own results. 

Unravel Your Hidden Strengths Through Your StrengthsFinder Results

Lisa: Did you have any that you were personally surprised by, or even not quite sure that they were "you"? 

Sara: I think the biggest surprise for me was Strategic. And as I read the description, I think it's one of the strengths that people have a lot of confusion about because our mind can go many different places about what that word means. But in understanding fully the definition in that Gallup definition of Strategic, I did find that it really clicked for me, and it was a style of thinking about systems and problem-solving. 

I think I've always, as I traced back to hobbies and things that I've enjoyed, it has to do with patterns and how things fit together, so it explained a lot. I think at that point of my career, I had been in this role, or in this organization for probably seven or eight years, and I had so many ideas about how to, things that needed to change, and some of my ideas were pretty radical, and about how to reconstruct something, we need to go back to the basics and tear something down and start over. 

And I think I was holding back on presenting these ideas partly because they were pretty outlandish, some of them. Some were beyond probably my pay grade or I wasn't, it didn't have a seat at the right table for that. But I began to trust that perhaps some of these ideas about how to solve systemic problems were right on and I think it gave me more permission to share what I was thinking. And then I have some opportunities to put things in practice. And what I found is, I was completely engaged in my work. I loved what I was doing. 

And these things were working like they were solving systemic problems. So that was for me I felt like it was so powerful like I think it helped me to lean into my strengths in a way that I don't know that I would have otherwise. 

Lisa: I think that's such a cool example of seeing things through a workplace lens where you looked for systemic problems and you gave yourself permission because so many people look at their results and go, 

“Oh, this is why I'm always the voice of that in meetings.” 

“This is why this is always running through my head.” 

And suddenly, now that they have the result in front of them, they knew this about themselves but they say, 

“Oh, that's why I ought to just leverage that.”

I also love that you read the results with an open mind. So often, when people are surprised by one of the items, they want to dismiss the tool and say, "hmmmmm, is StrengthsFinder legit? It doesn't seem to capture what I think of myself." Meanwhile the disconnect is usually as simple as a terminology issue. It can also be one of those situations where you believe what the report says, yet you haven't found it valuable at work, so you don't view that thing as a strength.

Sara: Absolutely.

Your Strengths Are Making An Impact In Your Life Outside Work

Lisa: So, I can't help it. You mentioned hobbies and you mentioned patterns, so now that we have one workplace angle on you, will you give us a way that you've seen Strategic show up in your life outside of work and how these patterns came to be? 

Sara: I can. It's a hobby that I've gotten away from a little bit just by having a busy life and three teenagers. But one of my hobbies, for quite a while, was mosaic tile work. And so, I love to be able to sketch out a design. And then, I would take my tile in the driveway with a hammer and be smashing pieces of tile, and looking for exactly the color and the texture and the right piece to fit into this larger whole of the design. 

And so I did some commission works for a while. I got some things that were being sold in shops, and I loved it. I love to do in this work. And so, it's partly I think goes back to that, “How can I make everything fit and very strategic?” 

I feel it's the way I approach my work too. It’s I always feel like…(muffled)...optimistic like there is a solution for every problem. There is a way that this will work. I just need time, I need access to the resources, I need to play around with it but I'll get there. 

And that was completely the process of doing the mosaic tile work too. 

Lisa: That is sooooooo cool. I love hearing about this hobby. Also, I love looking at mosaic tiles because I thought about putting them on a shower floor - making a dragon formation - but all the same color, where the pattern and the angles of the pattern is what makes the dragon pop out to you, except they're actually all the same color. It would be a monochromatic thing.

Someday, watch out, I’ll commission you. I'll get, “Come over from Boston. I need a dragon on the ground.” After your teenagers are off the payroll, right? 

Sara: 'Cause even as I talk about it, I remember how much fun I had. It is definitely one of the things I plan to return to. 

Lisa: It's a perfect way to end that question because this idea of strength and how you can reconnect to the things that energize you and how, when you tap into it, it's not just saying, 

“Oh yeah, this hobby or this skill energizes me."

“Oh, that's why I like that thing that I didn't expect to like that much, just because it uses this pattern in my mind.”

So cool.

This speaks to an unexpected angle of the question "is StrengthsFinder legit." It's a powerful angle because often the reports from the CliftonStrengths assessment will give you a spark. You then think, "hmmmm...that's totally true in my personal life, but I don't really use that one at work." If you have those thoughts, you might have a spark for some seriously untapped potential. Maybe you have a strength that you can unlock at work if you look for ways to apply it.


Okay, now it's your turn. You have some great new perspective from Sara to go apply in the workplace. We wish you the best as you take these ideas, and you learn to spot them in yourself, and then apply them to your life to make the workplace a better place.  Most of all, you may believe that StrengthsFinder is a legit tool, but there's something bigger: it's believing that your strengths are valid. It's believing that you have a contribution you can offer the world. You have untapped awesomeness inside of you, and we look forward to hearing how you offer it out to the world!

Want To Explore More Of The "StrengthsFinder Legit" Question?

Some time ago, Lisa delivered a podcast episode that answers the question, Is StrengthsFinder A Personality Test? The podcast debunks any quick assumption that StrengthsFinder is just another one of those personality tests being used by managers. Instead, it asserts that it’s a performance-based tool that focuses not only on what is needed to do the job but on how to do it well.

So does StrengthsFinder work? In another episode, Is There Proof That Strengths-Based Development Works?, Lisa provides answers anchored on 1) proof points through some Gallup research and 2) a visual way to imagine why strengths make sense.

Lisa’s resource for this episode is the classic book Soar with Your Strengths: A Simple Yet Revolutionary Philosophy of Business and Management by Donald O. Clifton and Paula Nelson, which uses a metaphor to bring us the powerful lesson of focusing on strengths rather than on fixing what’s missing or broken about us. It's a quick read. Warning: yes, the metaphor uses little animals like rabbits, which seems elementary at first blush. That's exactly why it works though - it's simple and totally understandable.

Want to know how else StrengthsFinder can provide practical value for you and your team? Listen to Lisa’s interview with Adam Seaman: Why Use StrengthsFinder For Your Team? or her conversation with Pete Mockaitis on How To Use Your StrengthsFinder Report. These are StrengthsFinder-focused conversations that can show you the practical side of living a strengths-focused life.

Direct download: Is-StrengthsFinder-Legit-Valid.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT

Lead Through Strengths Facilitator Strother Gaines Shares How CliftonStrengths Can Help With Productivity.

When it comes to work or personal goals, it is one thing to plan out all the things you intended to do and another to carry them out as committed. How we manage time, and how consistently or effectively we accomplish the tasks in our calendars, often determine the level of our productivity at work. 

Are we prioritizing the important and urgent issues when we need to make that decision?

Productivity is tough. Time management and calendars and overflowing to do lists create a lot of angst. Good news! You can use StrengthsFinder to help you do a gut check on your productivity and effectiveness at work.

Here’s the transcript of Lisa’s interview with Strother as they further explore this topic.

Lisa: You're listening to Lead Through Strengths, where you'll learn to apply your greatest strengths at work. I'm your host, Lisa Cummings and I'm also joined again by Strother Gaines, one of our Lead Through Strengths facilitators, who is here for the last interview in his series.

Next up, we'll be introducing you to another one of our facilitators. In this last one with Strother gotta tell you, my favorite thing is how he's calling me on this topic, commitments and calendar, and Maximizer be damned. It's the one that gets me. It's productivity and his "C's" that he'll tell you about.

I have so many commitments in my head about what I want to get done, what I hope to get done or to fulfill these high expectations, or this giant amount of potential all around us that I know could be realized. 

And it leads me to turn these ideas into commitments in my head. And when I allow them to become commitments in my head, and then I don't prioritize them as things that get done on the calendar because one human can only accomplish so many things, and I start to feel like productivity is a mythical force that cannot be attained. I'm the example of the person who would come up with the work of 10 humans for each one human, for every one human. 

Strother does a really good job of taking you through this prioritization exercise. And it's not just like the day-to-day prioritization of how you choose how you're going to spend your time and be productive over a few hour block. But it's looking back over your life and asking yourself:

“Am I prioritizing the things that I say are important to me as a person?”

“Am I living the life I say I want to lead?”

“Am I showing up with the values that I say I hold dear? Am I showing that I hold them dear?” 

It's the deeper level stuff. It's not just, “Do I do what I say I'm going to do?”

And it's not just a matter of whether you can prioritize one activity over another in a given day, as urgencies come up. It's not just a matter of holding productive meetings.

This is not that tactical. This is a much more strategic view of your life. And it's a great way to do a bit of a self-audit and see —

Are you living a life that is true to the one that you say you're setting out to live?

The 'Big C' And The 'Little C' In Commitments And How Intention Makes You Productive

Lisa: I love how you talk about calendars, burnout, "Big C, Little C..." Talk a little bit about how, when it's tough to manage time, and you're doing an audit of yourself and you're trying to get real with why you're overbooked all the time. Tie that into strengths and how you can take a good honest look at yourself leading to what you really do when you're at your productive-best...or...not!

Strother: This is Lisa, ladies and gents, this is her own individual issue but... 

Lisa: I may or may not have this issue personally (wink, wink).

Strother: She's working on it. We're doing a lot of work on her big picture productivity. Big C, Little C is something that I use all the time. The Big C, the C is commitment and what are your larger commitments. The Big C is the big stuff that aligns with your values and how you want to live your life.

The Big C is what you'd like to put down when you're telling people, “What are you committed to?” Family, growth, strength...

Lisa: Dog rescue...

Strother: Yeah, these are the things that I am very committed to them. And so the Big C is usually the high-minded, and it's the thing that would get us the thing that actually we do want because we don't have these high-minded commitments if we don't value them. 

The Little C is what I would think were your commitments if I followed you around quietly for 48 hours. What would I think you were actually committed to.

I wasn't able to interact with you. I couldn't talk with you. I was judging exclusively on my webcam vision of you for 48 hours. What would I say you were committed to?

For a long time, one of my struggles is the phone addiction piece because you know, you're in the lift, you're on your way somewhere, you've got a little break. You don't have enough time to really do deep work. So you're just going to pull out your phone, check in, scroll, all those sorts of things. 

And that would have been... 

Lisa: People would say you're committed to Instagram. You're totally productive with your social media games.

Strother: You're committed to your phone. Yeah, you're on it all the time. Piddly little iPhone games. I used to play iPhone games all the time. And I had to delete them because I recognized so much of my time….if an external Alien Force was coming down to see what I was doing, and they'd be like, “You do that thing a lot. What's that thing?” 

That's not forwarding the high-minded ideals that actually matter at the end of the day. It's not productive in a life sense. So when you are calendaring and seeing... The question that I think is most powerful in coaching, that I resisted very much when I first started coaching, but now I really do like it is: 

“What's that in service of?” rather than asking “Why do you do something?” Because that puts us on the defensive to defend why we've made that choice, saying — “Well, what's that in service of?” “What do you hope to gain from doing this thing?”

And sometimes we can't help but be reactive.

You have an inbox that's full. It's just a crazy day. It's not to make you wrong for ever doing that. But when you can be intentional, and you can tie your actions to a Big C as opposed to a Little C or no C at all, which is probably even worse when you're just like, "Whatever, I'm totally reactionary all the time." 

But when you can put intention behind it and tie them in, then the things that you do take on, the things you allow into your calendar, and sometimes that is intentionally blocking the calendar, so that nothing may enter that space, giving yourself as you've called it the white space in the calendar where you're like, 

“No, this is a protected time.” And I recognize if I don't put in something that says “Block this” that I will fill it with everything. 

Keeping A Commitment To Yourself Means You Can Keep A Commitment Towards Others

Lisa: I literally had to call it "untouchable." And it's a message to self, not just to other people. Literally untouchable. This is where I'm forcing productivity on the non-tactical items.

Strother: Don't mess with it. 

Lisa: And if I break that commitment to myself, what kind of commitment could I ever keep if I touch the untouchable? That doesn't sound like productivity at all.

Strother: And I mean, I need to start to reveal a little bit of this. Like, I remember how hard that was for you at the beginning. We've had that technique for a while where you're like, 

“I'm gonna block out an hour here and now and I'm gonna make sure...” 

And then we'd get back on the phone and you'd be like, “I didn't do it.” 

And it's because I had this really good reason, and there always is a good reason. 

Lisa: "My favorite customer called..." 

Strother: "I couldn't say no..."

Lisa: "I love them... What am I supposed to do? My productivity on strategic projects should not trump a client's simple, urgent question." 

Strother: The thing is you always have the choice. You all, like you are in control of your decisions. And if something did come up, and it was like your appendix has to come out, obviously, touch the untouchable. 

But it is when you've set those commitments in place and you say, "This is how I want to live my life. This is what productivity is."

Again, it's almost like a stoicism piece pulling back from the emotion of the immediate emotion and planning things out in advance before you're there. 

So then when you get there, it's the whole idea of like, set up your running shoes before you go to bed so that when you wake up, they're there. And you don't have to make that decision. If your calendar is already booked, you don't have to make that decision. And if you do, you have to really own what that means and go in and saying —

“I'm touching the untouchable and this is what that's in service of. And I have deemed that that is more important for me right now.” 

When that pattern just continues and continues and continues then you might need to put something new in place. If that doesn't again...

Lisa: It’s not working. 

Strother: Right, it's not working.

Lisa: Because really what you're saying is, "I am breaking my commitment to myself. And if I can't keep a commitment to myself, who can I keep a commitment to?"

Ultimately, no one. You're trying to keep it for everyone and that's probably why you're doing it. 

But in the end, you're not keeping a commitment to anyone if you can't trust yourself. You can trust yourself to be productive with your 3-item to-do list, but you can't trust yourself to earnestly live out the life you say you want.

Strother: Put the oxygen mask on yourself first before you help the kids.

Lisa: Yeah. Yeah, it's a difficult one to do.

Strother: It's so hard because you care about the kids. But if you passed out as you're putting along them, like, then they're dead too. So it’s not... What a dark way to it…. “And then the children are dead..”

Lisa: And the episode is over because the children are dead (reader note: that was sarcastic humor that works better in the video version).

Strother: There's nothing else, burn it to the ground.

Lisa: And this is it you've been listening to Lead Through Strengths where all of the children are dead, but your strengths are alive. 

But really, thanks for listening to Lead Through Strengths where you can apply your greatest strengths at work. 

Hope you get at least one tip that you can take today in terms of keeping your commitment to yourself, keeping your commitment to your strengths. 

And if you want a little help with that, get Strother on the house. He's good at keeping you honest at doing this stuff. Bye for now. 

Have Deeper Conversations On Productivity And Other Strengths: Ask Strother To Facilitate Your CliftonStrengths Training

So what did you think about while you were listening? Did you have an oxygen mask moment? Did you think of a thing where you went —

“Yeah, yeah, yup. I have not been setting boundaries... I'm taking on this thing for Joe in this thing for Susie Q and this thing for Ahmet at work and the look, I have not taken on the things that I say I want... Why can't I let my own things be my urgencies right now? Why am I constantly busy, but struggling with productivity?”

This goes back to that urgent and important quadrant concept from Stephen Covey, it goes way back. 

And Strother has a way of making it really practical and real. If you want to have some important conversations like this, either one-on-one coaching or CliftonStrengths conversations with your team, about what your priorities are, but beyond the moment-to-moment priorities to reach the goals, your priorities as people so that you really understand each other and what drives each person on the team, consider bringing Strother in for one of your events. He facilitates both in-person and virtual events. 

At the time of this recording, virtual is hot. So, feel free to come on over and request Strother for one of your events so that you can make the most of the environment that we're in. 

With that, you've been listening to Lead Through Strengths and we look forward to hearing how you have begun to claim your talents and share them with the world.

Dig Deeper Into Productivity Through These Resources

In his book Smarter, Faster, Better, Charles Duhigg defined productivity as a choice between being “merely busy” or being “genuinely productive.”

When you’re someone who leads through Discipline, Achiever or Responsibility, chances are you are committed to completing tasks and achieving your results at the deadline intended, but you might get in the trap of completing many projects without experiencing productivity in your bigger life goals (because you've let other people's priorities take on a disproportionate chunk of time).

If this sounds like you, learn about the circumstances that could lead to your talents being starved, fed, honored and insulted. Focus on letting your natural talents shine in order to live your best life. These pages on will be helpful to you whether or not you lead through Discipline, Achiever, and Responsibility.

Direct download: 123-Using-Your-Strengths-To-Get-Productive.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am CDT