What is the Clifton StrengthsFinder?

I took the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment for the first time in 2002, and it changed my life! I realized that Ideation wasn’t a form of ADD, but actually a tremendous asset. I had taken other “personality tests” before, but nothing came close to describing me in the way that StrengthsFinder did. Today, although I’ve grown and changed, so much of what I learned back then continues to influence the way I understand myself and how I make decisions.

I remember trying to explain to people about this new “assessment thing”; most were skeptical. Although we rarely meet that skepticism now (over 13 million people have utilized StrengthsFinder), we still take time at the beginning of each engagement to thoroughly explain the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment and how it works..

A Brief History of the Clifton StrengthsFinder

The Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment was created under the leadership of educational psychologist Donald Clifton. He wanted to identify the skills of the best of the best of the best, and to capitalize on them. According to Gallup,

The Gallup Organization, widely known for its polls and employee selection research, developed numerous semi-structured interviews to identify talent that could be enhanced and used to pursue positive outcomes in work and school. In the 1990s, under the leadership of Donald O. Clifton, Gallup developed the CSF as an objective measure of personal talent that could be administered online in less than one hour.

StrengthsFinder, a revolutionary tool for measuring talents, was first introduced to the world in 2001 with the best selling book, Now Discover Your Strengths. The updated StrengthsFinder 2.0 was later released in 2007 and is consistently (one of) the hottest selling books on Amazon.

What Does the StrengthsFinder Measure?

The Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment helps identify the areas where you (or team if being used in that context) have the greatest potential for building strength. It measures recurring patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior. Knowing this information is a starting point; Leadership Vision is then able to help individuals, teams and organizations leverage their Talents, and turn them into sustainable Strengths.

Of Note: StrengthsFinder is not intended to be used in hiring decisions. In fact, any job or role can leverage any number of strengths combinations.

The Technical Side of StrengthsFinder

The Clifton StrengthsFinder is an assessment of “normal personality from the perspective of Positive Psychology” (read more below). When you purchase a code, it grants you access to take the online assessment.

How the online assessment works:

  • 177 pairs of “potential” self-descriptors are listed. Ex: “I dream about the future” versus “People are my greatest ally.”
  • The descriptors are placed as if they are anchoring polar ends of a continuum.
  • Choose the descriptor that best describes you, and the extent to which it describes your personality.
  • After 20 seconds the assessment moves onto the next item pair. If you miss too many questions, the assessment will start over.

Once you’ve completed the Clifton StrengthsFinder, you’ll immediately receive the results – your top 5 signature themes in ranked order. Your individual results will also include a packet of information specifically geared to your unique Theme Print. From there, this simple strengths activity can help get you started.

Defining Key Clifton StrengthsFinder Terms

There are a few key terms that are important to understand as you delve into the world of the Clifton StrengthsFinder.

Positive Psychology

In a nutshell, positive psychology is “the scientific study of optimal human functioning; focusing on happiness, strength, personal potential and greatest satisfaction.” Many assessment tools focus on fixing something that is wrong, whereas StrengthsFinder focuses on what works.


The Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment is rooted in and based around neuroscience – “a scientific discipline studying the structure, development, function, and genetics of the brain.” Through the use of cognitive MRI’s, neurologists can actually see the activity of the brain when subjected to certain stimuli. In short, your brain literally lights up when it’s functioning in an area of strength.

Assessment vs. Psychometric

You’ve probably taken other personality tests. (There are literally dozens of them on the internet.) These “assessments” may seek to determine which city you best represent, your identifying character on a popular TV show, superhero, or even what type of cheese best describes you. These are assessments that merely ask questions based on your preferences. One can give any answer in order to influence the outcome a certain way.

Obviously these tests aren’t valid or reliable (according to two different Game of Thrones assessments, I’m either Jon Snow or Tyrion Lannister).

A psychometric assessment is an “objective measurement of skills and knowledge, abilities, attitudes, personality traits.” You don’t exactly know what sorts of questions are being asked, or why. Additionally, the Clifton StrengthsFinder only gives you 20 seconds to answer before moving on in order to get your gut reaction.

The Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment is a psychometric that measures the things you’re naturally good at doing – so good you may not understand your results because you think, “doesn’t everybody do that?

Why StrengthsFinder Matters

There are many reasons why Leadership Vision leverages StrengthsFinder. In a culture that focuses on developing or fixing our weaknesses, the StrengthsFinder tool invites us to focus on what is right and strong about you. Because of this, we use the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment to help build strong people, strong teams and strong culture. It is only from a place of strength that individuals and organizations can have significant and long-term impact.

If you have questions about how to leverage the Clifton StrengthsFinder on a personal or professional level, don’t hesitate to contact us.