December 19, 2021

"Know Thyself" by looking at CliftonStrengths

The reality is that even the most self-aware of us are blind to some aspect of our humanist manufacturing leadership impact. Therefore, leaders looking to maximize their performance may benefit from working through the various options available from the CliftonStrengths assessment and the various associated tools.
A Shift from "Why" to a Personal Assessment

It is not enough only to shift to a positive leadership perspective, as covered in last week's blog post.  The reality is that even the most self-aware of us are blind to some aspect of our humanist manufacturing leadership impact.  For this reason, I have long been a fan of personality-type instruments.  My career began in machine rebuild and repair, which led to various engineering roles.  My training was to troubleshoot what kept equipment from performing as expected and then take the appropriate corrective action.  This introduction to continuous improvement of plant operations appears to be integral to my personal life.  

"What will happen when we think about what is right with people rather than fixating on what is wrong with them?" -  Donald O. Clifton
It Seems Obvious to Me

I have often wondered why others did not see what seemed evident to me during my career.  I suspect I saw it as something wrong with them.  I was further confused about why it was not well received when sharing my insight with various bosses.  The answer to this bewilderment came from a recent CliftonStrengths assessment.  My top strength was analytical, which was not a surprise.  The value came in the follow-up report feedback on blind spots.

The Analytical Mind

Individuals with analytical insight can uncover the essential facts necessary to realize excellence.  Their mindset is to search for patterns and connections.  They bring a logical and objective approach to find simplicity in complexity.  Analysts use systematic reasoning to develop more innovative concepts than the other team members.  The analyst wants to see data as value-free and aligns with their objective and dispassionate approach to finding the most significant outcome.  Those with an analytical approach begin a questioning process to determine if a proposed theory is sound.  Analysts have a refining mind that will continue to ask questions until the theory either withers and dies or a logical path emerges to achieve the desired result.  They want to expose "wishful or clumsy thinking." Their objective is to absorb and analyze information to help the team make better decisions.

Valuable Feedback

Again, the feedback that "analytical" was my top strength was not a revelation to me as it aligns with my approach to work.  The value in the report was that I need to understand that other team members will have a personal, subjective, and emotional attachment to their proposed theories.  Instead of delivering what I perceive as objective and dispassionate advice, it likely comes across as critical and skeptical.  It would have been good to have known forty years ago that I appeared to doubt the validity of the ideas of others.  Instead of providing support, I might have inadvertently presented as lacking trust and a difficult coworker.  While I thought I was trying to stretch our thinking, it was probably difficult for my colleagues to receive what I perceived as help.

Improved Awareness

While interesting to know how our various strengths or themes rank, the value is in our improved awareness.  Understanding our natural talents can enhance confidence and empowerment.  A deeper understanding of self can benefit professional and personal relationships by focusing on strengths instead of eliminating weaknesses.  When possible, we should be assigned work that aligns with what we naturally do best by developing these strengths to live our ideal lives.

Benefits of CliftonStrengths 34

The CliftonStrengths 34 provides a detailed breakdown of your top ten strengths, ideas for actions, and potential theme blind spots.  The report includes advice on how to navigate the balance of our themes.  There is the additional insight to identify our lesser strengths to manage them better.  Ultimately, it provides a complete understanding of our strengths DNA and a plan that allows us to be more successful in our work with others.  

The Four Domains

The 34 report further breaks down the four domains of CliftonStrengths to include:

1. Executing – Individuals that align with this domain work tirelessly to achieve the defined objective.  They understand how to get the job done and make plans from ideas to reality.

2. Influencing – Influencers can convince internal and external stakeholders to buy into the organization's needs.  They help others express their voices, speak up, and take control.

3. Relationship Building – Relationship builders can build and nurture strong team relationships that hold members together.  Those with these related strengths accomplish the opportunity to create team synergy and strengthen bonds.

4. Strategic Thinking – When a team needs someone to stretch their minds to think about what is possible in the future, they turn to those with strengths in this domain.  These individuals can absorb what others see as chaos in the current state and distill down the relevant content to make the best decisions to lead to a more excellent organizational future.

My results show that my collective strengths are the highest in the strategic thinking domain.  The second area is the executing domain which allows me to put in action what I see as the desired future.  

Image Credit: Pixaby
Lesser Strengths, Not Weaknesses

No matter how talented we are, some strengths are higher than others.  My domain results are the common theme of lesser strengths in influencing others and relationship building.  Understanding this and using the ideas for actions and potential theme blind spots would be vital for getting others to buy into my plans for developing a strategic direction for the organization.  However, I could better serve the organization by finding a team member or members with their highest strengths in the areas where I am not as strong.

The Johari Window

An exercise that can benefit our individual growth is the Johari Window with a 2x2 matrix with Self across the top and Others on the side.  In the upper left is the open area of known to yourself and others where transparent behaviors and known talents and strengths are mutual knowledge.  The upper right is the blind spot where misperceptions and misunderstandings occur, along with the areas lacking self-regulation are unseen by you but seen by others.  The lower left is a hidden area where you are aware of unclaimed and underutilized talents of which others are not aware.  Finally, the lower right is an unknown area where neither yourself nor others have tapped into unknown potential.  

The Clifton Coach

A coaching manager can also work with clients with the Best of Us, Name It! Claim It! Aim It!, and The Strengths Wheel exercises.  These, coupled with the action-planning tool and other themes reports, will provide a deep personal understanding of the leader's strengths to this critical work.

Key Takeaway

Humanist manufacturing leaders looking to maximize their performance may benefit from working through the various options available from the CliftonStrengths assessment and the various associated tools.  We can become stronger through personal development with more significant potential to lead more efficient and effective teams and organizations.

First Step

Individuals interested in developing themselves to discover their strengths can benefit from working with a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach.  The coach is key to taking clients beyond learning a list of strengths to develop their talents and become stronger leaders.

My Gratitude

I was introduced to CliftonStrengths by Claire Kent, a faculty colleague.  She approached me about supporting her desire to become a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach.  I am grateful that Claire used that training to benefit many students, faculty, and staff at our university.

Sneak Peek

Next week's blog will integrate humanist principles into the role of leaders to "Know Thyself" by looking at the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument.

To learn more about our work or read more blog posts, visit

Cover Image Credit: Pixaby

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