A Tribute to a Strengths Legend: Chip Anderson

When I started working with the StrengthsFinder assessment tool in 2001, I had the extreme privilege of studying and learning about the tool from one of the people who was there with Donald Clifton at the beginning of the strengths movement, Dr. Chip Anderson.

Who was Chip Anderson

Chip Anderson was a professor at UCLA and Azusa Pacific and one of the leading researchers and practitioners of the StrengthsFinder tool. I heard him present about 4 or 5 times and each time I watched closely and tried to pick up everything I could from someone who would often get Donald Clifton on the phone while he was presenting. Chip was a lot of things, but ultimately he was a strengths evangelist. He was someone who was extremely passionate about not having anyone end up in a bad job fit because they did not know their own strengths. So, any group that would have him he would take through strengths and did it in a way that I have not seen exactly replicated.  The way he was able to train people around their strengths was amazing.

Chip always talked about where the whole theory of strengths came from, positive psychology and the like. But where Chip was an absolute master was the fact that when he went through all 34 strengths with a group. During this activity which is common to anyone who leads groups through their strengths, Chip would make everyone pair up and ask leading questions about how they used each of their strengths. One person would talk, the other would listen.

This activity served a few purposes:

  1. It helped people know more about their own strengths, and it helped those who were in their group understand how the people they were attending the seminar with were wired.
  2. It forced people to interact with their strengths in a way that made the learning become experiential and in a way that was in a partner setting, not a large group setting.

This activity, something I use all the time, is a directed listening encounter. It is so simple but so effective. Guiding people through their strengths need not be complicated, it should be about how are you getting people to talk about how they are wired and owning who they are wired to be.

Books by Dr. Anderson

During Chip’s career he co-authored one of the seminal texts in the strengths movement, “StrengthsQuest.

StrengthsQuest is a book that any serious strengths coach should be very conversant in. The theory in that book and application really puts it at the top of every book that has been written in the strengths movement.

Chip was such a humble servant. Many times I asked him questions that were so basic and he would give me detailed answers and suggestions. Even though I did not spend a ton of time with him, he continues to influence me years after he passed away.

I can’t even remember the year, but it was around 2004 or 2005. I was out at a conference in Los Angeles and Chip was scheduled to lead a group of college students through their strengths. Chip had been struggling with cancer and was clearly not feeling all that well when he presented to the group.  Something in my head told me to pay close attention and learn everything that Chip was trying to impart.

It turns out that within a few days of that time, wracked with pain from cancer, Chip went to the hospital and passed away.

Chip Anderson was doing what he was wired to do all the way up until he died. What an inspiration.

I am so thankful to Chip and hope to carry a small part of his legacy going forward to every group that I have the privilege to work with.