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Your People Tell You the Truth: Believe Them

After years of resistance and misunderstanding, I finally took the CliftonStrengths assessment. It was StrengthsFinder and StrengthsQuest and now it’s a Gallup assessment.


Why was I resistant? I don’t feel competent with so much stuff.


I have been in groups of fewer than 30 who used the Meyers-Briggs assessment in team-building and team development. The idea is super good. Every one gets to know one another’s MBTI. It can only be helpful to better understand the members of your team.


However, I can’t keep that much info in my head. There are 16 different personality types. Each one of those 16 has 8 factors (8 words paired up to represent each end of 4 continuums of behavior / preference). Each factor has varying degrees based on the individual. If I’m going to make meaningful use of the information, I’m going to have to remember what each of the 16 means, what each of the 8 factors means, where on the continuum each person lands, AND understand that it’s a snapshot, not who you are forever and ever.


CliftonStrengths has 34 “things” and each person gets five strengths. Thirty. Four. Things. Oh, my, there’s no way.


My fandom was with (and still is with) True Colors. Four. Four things. I can remember four things and the big pieces of each one. I can see the behavior in others knowing full well that a Blue may just as easily have some of their Orange show up on occasion. Simple, clear, manageable. It’s not overly complex and some may argue not complex enough. Perhaps, but it sure is a great place to start without having to have a conversion chart to describe what an ENFP is. If that even is one.


Now the misunderstanding. Somehow I came to believe that the StrengthsFinder was a pile of words that you select the ones that most closely represent you. This isn’t an assessment, it’s an affirmation. The actual process is a traditional intake that produces a result. I don’t know how I thought it was a grab-bag of self-congratulatory refrigerator poetry, but I did.


Then I was “forced” into taking the assessment. So, to play nice, I did. I did so earnestly. As if this was some kind of really thoughtless arc in a mystery story, the answer was there all along. The results absolutely confirmed other assessments I’ve taken, what I thought I thought about myself, and, perhaps most importantly, what others say about me to me.


Without further belaboring, here they are:

  1. Learner

  2. Connectedness

  3. Individualization

  4. Ideation

  5. Arranger

What’s that mean? In short:


Learner - I like learning stuff and I enjoy continuous improvement. I’m open to input and knowing that I don’t know something. This is also my number one result in my 12 Driving Forces assessment.


Connectedness - I enjoy connecting people to one another and ideas to other ideas. This sense of connectedness helps people see the big picture and also provides a calming effect.


Individualization - Everyone is unique and “treat everyone the same” does not show up in my playbook. I appreciate each person for what they bring and like to help them bring that out even more.


Ideation - You may have picked up on the theme by now; I like ideas! I like wild ideas and new things and I enjoy seeing how they are connected to other ideas (see Connectedness above).


Arranger - I like to coordinate people and resources for maximum effectiveness. I display flexibility in complex situations and being nimble is an asset to respond to changing circumstances.



There may be some confusion here. If Learner is my top strength, why is there too much information for me to keep track of in the MBTI? For me, I might be putting too much stake in the MBTI and not enough in my other strengths. If the MBTI is the script, I don’t feel much room for improv. If there’s one right answer to interacting with a human, my Connectedness and Individualization get benched. This may or may not be accurate; I’m not diagnosing, just exploring.


I’ve invited you to read this uncharacteristically self-indulgent piece to get to the punchline. Maya Angelou said, in part, “When people show you who they are, believe them.” The same is true about you. When people you trust tell you what they see in you, believe them. And if that happens to be supported by objective assessments, you can be pretty sure there’s accuracy in the statements.


This doesn’t mean you should internalize everything. That’s both unhealthy and counter-productive. But if people continually marvel at your ability to be prepared or your affable disposition or that you’ve never met a stranger, believe them. It is perfectly okay to admit you have strengths.


And before you think it, stop. Really. NO. “Maybe, but I’m really bad at…” has no place here. Accept your strengths and build on them. Someone might say, “You’re the best I’ve ever seen at…” That is wonderful and no one is holding you to some standard of perfection.


They’re recognizing that you’re pretty awesome at that thing you’re pretty awesome at.


Your strengths are meant to be highlighted, enhanced, and built upon. Use your strengths to go forth and be awesome.



Cover Art Photo by Leon on Unsplash

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