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What I’m Talking About When I Say “Strengths”

CliftonStrengths (hereafter simply referred to as Strengths) is a self-assessment tool developed by Gallup that measures patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that occur naturally in you. Gallup developed 34 possible Strengths. When you take the online assessment, Gallup places those 34 Strengths in order from those that you engage most often/most naturally, down to those you draw upon the least. The results are presented as your “top five Strengths.”

The Strengths assessment is just that, a tool. It is a mirror that can help someone see something unique and special about them that they may not have otherwise observed. Consider, for example, someone with the Empathy Strength. It is likely that person has been highly empathetic their whole life. They may not know how much of an asset their empathy skills are in their relationships. They might accidentally assume others strive to be as empathetic as they are, inherently. Sometimes we are fish in water when it comes to our own Strengths. The assessment helps us see ourselves in a new light, which will allow us to fully acknowledge and appreciate our talents, thus providing us with the opportunity to best leverage them.

That being said, the Strengths tool can only be as helpful as a user lets it be. It is said that upon first completing the Strengths assessment, a user's results are not yet Strengths -- they are talents. One must intentionally reflect upon and hone a talent in order for it to truly become a strength. This endeavor takes time. Indeed, completing the assessment is step one. Understanding your Strengths and the language that Gallup provides is step two. Step three is a continuous cycle of reflection and adjustment.

The 34 possible Strengths are sometimes referred to as talents or themes. Gallup uses the word themes, because it is impossible for one word to properly encompass all that a particular Strength entails. For example, one of the Strengths is Competition. What comes to mind when you hear the word competition? I have asked many Strength workshop participants this question. I often hear variations on the following responses: winner, aggressive, sore loser, sports, athlete, and so on. Acknowledging that the word competition is an umbrella under which exist many relevant nuances is important to getting the most out of the Strengths tool.

Why should you take the Strengths assessment?

My personal experience using the Strengths assessment has been profoundly impactful. I first took the assessment fourteen years ago. Over the years I have been able to practice noticing my strengths in action, and make strategic decisions about when to apply a strength, and when to refrain. As I often discuss, our strengths are also our weaknesses. (This will surely be covered in the workshop!).

Gallup research asserts that focusing on strengths lends individuals and teams of people to be more engaged and more productive. Social scientists agree that there is a strong correlation between happiness and engagement. A strengths orientation has positively impacted how I work, how I structure my time, my productivity, and my self concept. These outcomes give me greater confidence in myself, and my work. I believe the same could be true for you.

We're hosting a Strengths Workshop for Ely-area residents!

This workshop will be a fun and interactive way to learn about yourself while also meeting new people (and enjoying your beverage-of-choice from the wide selection available downstairs in Northern Grounds).

Participants will receive a 50% discount on the cost of the assessment tool (which typically costs $20). The cost of registration also covers charcuterie snack. Attendees will be responsible for purchasing their own beverages. The workshop will be facilitated by a Gallup-certified Strengths coach and long-time Strengths-enthusiast -- me!

Register by noon on Thursday, October 6. Participants will be asked to commit up to two hours to complete the assessment and review their results prior to the workshop.

Where can I get more information about Strengths?

If you are a podcaster like me, you can check out the Hamline University Career Cast episode about Strengths for which I was a guest speaker:

I also encourage you to check out to get information straight from the source.

Lastly, you are welcome to email me directly with any workshop- or Strengths-related questions. (

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