Key strengths list and examples from Gallup’s official Clifton Strengths, the online assessment all the way to maximising employee strengths and creating lasting organisational change with superior strengths coaching
What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses? We’ve all heard that one in an interview. No wonder everyone online is looking for the “right” answers. What are strengths an employee should have? Is there a list of key strengths and core strengths? Are there examples of these strengths?
And what about your weaknesses? These are questions that come up for employees in the workplace and students all the time. But there’s actually an official answer to this question, and it’s known as Gallup’s Clifton Strengths.
LifeXchange Solutions being experts in strengths coaching for exciting business growth in South Africa and beyond, our team brings you the low-down on getting official with strengths and how to maximise strengths for hugely positive change in an entire organisation, too.
OFFICIAL CLIFTON STRENGTHS BY GALLUP
What are strengths? It’s not a new question in the workplace, or anywhere else for that matter. In 1988, then polling firm Gallup merged with customer research experts Selection Research Inc. (SRI) in America and created what is probably the world’s most thorough, research-based tool for understanding strengths. But it all started way before that.
Previously known as Gallup Strengths, the enterprise is now known as Clifton Strengths after the man who devoted his life to studying new ideas in human development, Don Clifton (founder of SRI). As early as 1949, Don Clifton started working on a way to maximise people’s potential.
And his work led to the creation of the official list of 34 Clifton Strengths themes (later divided into 4 domains). It first appeared in the 1990s, but, since then, Gallup has updated and researched and kept up with the trends to stay at the forefront of strengths.
So, if you were ever looking for a really official answer to the “what are your strengths” question, this is it. And, essentially, anyone can find out their own strengths with the CliftonStrengths Assesment.
CLIFTONSTRENGTHS ASSESSMENT ONLINE TEST
First appearing as the StrengthsFinder in 1999 and the StrengthsFinder 2.0 in 2007, Gallup finally changed the name of its online strengths-assessment tool to the CliftonStrengths Assesment in 2015, in honour of Don Clifton who passed away in 2003 as a man celebrated worldwide for his immense contribution to positive psychology and strengths-based development.
It’s an online test you complete to get your top 5 strengths out of the list of 34 Strengths themes. And here’s the important part, because it’s how the original vision works: Your top 5 is what you’re most interested in (not your weaknesses) because Don Clifton’s vision was to develop “what is right about people versus what is wrong”. Meaning the whole idea is that you do the assessment, get your results, forget totally about your weaknesses and focus only on developing your top 5 strengths. Ideally.
It’s revolutionary. Because in most businesses, we focus on trying to correct people’s weaknesses. That’s what performance assessments and traditional performance management are all about. And we’ll leave it to you to decide how well it’s been working for you.
But there are decades worth of data and research that suggest it could be worthwhile to focus on developing people’s strengths instead …
WHY STRENGTHS BASED DEVELOPMENT IS VITAL FOR EVERY BUSINESS
All this strengths stuff centres around the biggest element inside every business in South Africa and the world: Its people. People are the core of every organisation on the planet. (There wouldn’t be any businesses if there were no people, right?) And the math is simple. If your people are performing, your business will grow and flourish.
And one key to understanding what makes people perform is looking at employee engagement (how passionate people are in their jobs and how committed to the organisation as a whole).
Studies have proven it. When Gallup first looked at businesses and their people, they found that one of the main reasons some organisations are struggling is that, on average, only 30% of employees are actually engaged in the workplace. But the real figures are way worse than that.
STRENGTHS: IT’S ABOUT EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT
The latest new global research by labour analysts ADP Research Institue confirms only 16% of employees are fully engaged at work.
16%? That’s less than 2 out of every 10 employees. And it means 84% of people (8 out of 10 in the office) are not engaged in their jobs. And it’s costing businesses dearly.
Gallup reckons this costs US business $1 trillion every year. And in South Africa, it’s well over R89 billion annually. According to the Momentum Effective Employee Index, that’s how much just “presenteeism” (being at work but not working) is costing SA businesses every year. And that’s not even counting the costs of incivility, staff retention and staff turnover (mainly because no one really knows how much this costs our economy ) – all of which have been researched and linked to business’s organisational structures.
So, what’s happening? It turns out that many of our organisational structures and methodologies (the way we run our companies) are completely wrong. The business tactics for managing people that worked during the industrial revolution (18th century), when most work was factory-based and mechanical, have been largely kept in place in traditional company structures until today.
And it turns that 21st-century work, which is way more creative and specialised, doesn’t function under the same old ideas. So, employees become disengaged – I’ll do the bare minimum for a paycheck – and it’s the company and the economy that suffers in the end.
But the focus on strengths offers one possible solution.
PROOF THAT STRENGTHS BASED DEVELOPMENT ACTUALLY WORKS
In a massive 2016 study, including 49 000 business units with 1.2 million employees across 22 organisations in seven industries across 45 countries worldwide, implementing the strengths approach helped businesses engage up to 65% of their employees, dramatically improve their staff retention and so-doing boost their profits by up to 19%.
And you can do the same. Check out our strengths-based development.
FULL LIST OF ALL 34 GALLUP’S CLIFTON STRENGTHS
We’ve compiled a complete list with all 34 strengths, divided into each of the main domains of CliftonStrengths. See the full list of strengths.
THE 4 DOMAINS OF STRENGTHS
To make understanding how strengths feed into each other and benefit your business, they’re divided into four domains, which make their benefits pretty clear. Discover the 4 domains of strengths:
People with strengths in Strategic Thinking are what you need to envision and realise your business’s future potential. They are able to absorb and analyse huge quantities of information to make informed decisions about where you should be going.
Strategic thinkers are analytical but also future-focused, keeping your team’s eyes on what could be. When you need big ideas and problems to be solved, these are the skills you want.
Discover the strategic thinking strengths domain.
Although we tend to think of the employees in our businesses as a collective – our people, our staff. It’s important to remember that the team is still made up of individuals. And each individual’s drive and performance is what propels the entire team forward in the end.
Relationship builders know this instinctively. They are the ones who bind together people to turn them into high-performing teams. And they do it, largely, with skills that may have been neglected in the business world of the past – they actually care. Possibly one of the most overlooked skill sets in business today, being authentic and relatable is turning out to be more valuable than intellect in business in the 21st century.
Discover the relationship building strengths domain.
Purpose, energy, passion – your influencers have the power to motivate and inspire people to change. Think about the tech CEO introducing the latest world-changing product, or the person who’s TED Talk drives everyone to start looking for a better tomorrow. That’s your influencer.
People with influencing skills are driven by a purpose or a cause, so if you give them one they will fearlessly storm into the unknown and go and rally others to your cause. They have the power to persuade and drive action.
Discover the influencing strengths domain.
Focus, speed, precision and dedication – your executers are the ones who make things happen. They relish in putting in the hard work right now, so they can move on to the next task quickly. They put thoughts and ideas into action.
People with executing skills are task-focused, driven and able to work tirelessly toward a goal or target. They’re dependable and truly enjoy ticking things off the list, but also – very importantly – able to inspire and drive everyone else’s performance too.
Discover the executing strengths domain.
HOW DEVELOPING USING STRENGTHS WORKS
The idea is that, instead of focusing on performance management to make people fit into square holes, you use the online assessment tool to identify all of your staff’s individual strengths to find out where they actually fit best.
This is where Strengths Coaching helps hugely. And, even on its own, strengths coaching already leads to huge benefits. Teams get to know each other better, improve communication and understanding almost immediately. You can see it in action, as an example, at our recent strengths workshop at Goede Hoop Citrus.
But then – and this is the big one – the next step is to actually re-design your company’s organisation and systems around it. And that’s where many businesses today miss out on some of the biggest benefits of strengths.
THE NUMBER ONE MISTAKE BUSINESSES MAKE WITH STRENGTHS
The whole strengths movement is actually designed to be used in three very NB steps: Name, Claim and Aim. And, unfortunately, most companies get stuck in the Name phase and never really move on to the good stuff.
Here’s how it’s supposed to work:
First, you need to Name the strengths within your company – find out what people’s individual strengths are. At this point, their “strengths” are not really strengths yet, because most likely every manager and HR in all their previous jobs have hammered them with performance assessments that’ve focused on their weaknesses, usually leading to their true strengths being underdeveloped. In this phase, we refer to “strengths” as talents – skills that have the potential of becoming huge assets to each person (and your business).
Then, you move to the Claim phase, where you actually focus on enabling people to recognise whenever they or someone else uses one of the “strengths” (talents) inside your daily business. And, you put training etc. in place to help people begin developing their talents into true strengths.
The last phase is where you Aim people’s strengths. It’s where you redesign your business’s management to physically deploy the right person for each job based on their known strengths. And also creating the ultimate balance of strengths in your business.
That’s when you really start seeing the real benefits of strengths.
DONE RIGHT: STRENGTHS COACHING MEETS BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
If it all sounds a bit complicated, don’t worry. Helping companies navigate and deploy strengths properly is one of the things we at LifeXchange Solutions live for.
We specialise in full-service and sustainable strengths, from beginning to end. We help you roll out your strengths programme from the basics, including all the individual strengths assessments, to full-on strengths coaching (in-person and online), and then we facilitate the entire Name-Claim-Aim process, beginning-to-end, all the way up to the optimal organisational design for strengths. See our complete strengths-based development.
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