Using Assessment Tools, Like StrengthsFinder, In Your Business

One of the most helpful tools we’ve used for our workplace is the Gallup-backed StrengthsFinder.com assessment tool to understand each of our team member’s unique and natural strengths.

We use it to find out what they are great at and how we can fit that into the context of our team dynamics and to ensure they are in the best position for our company and themselves.

[ If you’d like to see a full presentation I gave on this subject for our LifeDev series at iThemes, click here ]

So What are Strengths?

According to author Tom Rath of StrengthsFinder, here is the formula for strengths:

Talent (a natural way of thinking, feeling, or behaving)
X Investment (time spent practicing, developing your skills and building your knowledge base)
= STRENGTH (the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance)

StrengthsFinder includes 34 different themes aka strengths and based on more than 40 years of research and has been taken by over 4 million people.

How to Take the StrengthsFinder Assessment Tool

  1. Buy the StrengthsFinder print book or Kindle version — in the print version the coupon code for the assessment will be in the back and if you buy the Kindle version, you’ll get a coupon emailed. The book is more a desk reference than a book you read from cover to cover. However, reading the introductory chapters will benefit you greatly.
  2. Go to StrengthsFinder.com and set aside 30 minutes or so to take the test to get your Top 5 Strengths.

How We Use StrengthsFinder at iThemes

Matt, our COO, and I most likely currently get the most out of the assessments as we seek to lead the company … but here’s how we’ve integrated it into our teams:

  • Every team member takes the StrengthsFinder assessment tool. Notice I didn’t say test, it’s a discovery tool not something you pass or fail. We have given away dozens of the books to those outside our team to help others learn more about themselves.
  • Each person’s top 5 strengths are posted privately but for our entire team to see. This allows others and in particular their team lead to know what their strengths are and immediately use the book reference to find out more and how to work with them. Since we’ve been doing this for over 2 years now, we are starting to build contextual experiences with many of the strength themes and how they have played out for us.
  • We try to do a quick session with the new team member to unpack it and giving examples and guidance from past experiences. We talk about how their strengths are used in their work here and how we can maximize it. We talk about others who share their strengths.
  • It gives us a common language and context to talk about regularly. The veterans of the team are asked to share experiences. It is something our leadership team talks about often, especially when new team members arrive.

Here’s how we shake out with our top strengths as a group:

  • 11 – Strategic
  • 10 – Learners
  • 8 – Relator, Individualization, Ideation, Input

One of the spinoff books in the strengths movement is: Strengths-Based Leadership …. with all of our strengths combined, we fall in the Strategic Thinking category of leadership.

Quick Tips for Getting the Most Out of Assessment Tools

Here are some quick thoughts and tips for using StrengthsFinder and other assessment tools:

  • Remember they are simply tools – they cannot replace personal relationships, interactions and experiences. They are simply specific tools designed to highlight specific areas of personality or skill development.
  • There is only one of you – no tools can adequately paint a picture of who you are. Even though the tools segment you into groups – in StrengthsFinder case it’s 34 themes – everybody is different. Put all of this in perspective as you use any tool like this.
  • Understand and read about OTHERS too – don’t just read about your own, get to know other people’s profiles. This helps me not only understand myself but those I interact with on a daily basis.
  • Find someone to talk with – from a colleague, partner or friend, get a buddy to be able to discuss your profiles and get feedback from.
  • Have your significant other take them with you – this isn’t always an easy initial conversation but my wife and I have taken lots of these tools together and it provides a channel of communication to talk about them together – in order to better understand and love each other. Almost a day doesn’t go by that we don’t talk about one of the tools we’ve used from StrengthsFinder to 5 Love Languages.
  • Check out the careers and relationships suggestions – in particular the Kiersey / Myers-Briggs Personality Tests have been almost spot on for the careers and positions I’ve found most enjoyable and attuned to who I am.
  • Application is key – don’t take tests just to be a test junkie. Think about how they apply to your personal and professional life. How it helps explain certain situations or people, so you will be able to work better with them.
  • Don’t go overboard – balance and moderation in most things is a wise rule of life. Just like lack of using your unique skills and personality causes problems, overcompensating does too. Find balance in your context, in the real world of daily life and see how they work out for you.

Here are some other assessment tools I’ve used or taken:

  • Kiersey / Myers Briggs – took this in college and have come back to it almost every week since. I am an INFJ.
  • 5 Love Languages this is one of THE best tools for an intimate relationship. But I also see value for it in your profession. I am “Words of Affirmation”
  • Standout just like StrengthsFinder, it is a book with a code for the online assessment and author Marcus Buckingham was a Gallup researcher and writer and pioneer in the Strengths movement. I am a “Pioneer” and “Influencer.”
  • Kolbe — I know very little about this one as I only took it this year. I’m a high “Quick Start” and essential or medium “Fact Finder.”

How about you? What has your experiences been with assessment tools like this? And what are your “types?” Post them in the comments below.

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