How to Teach All 34 Themes of Strength and Get Engagement

A core part of any introductory StrengthsFinder session teaches all 34 Themes of Strength.

At Leadership Vision, we start nearly every client engagement with some version of our 201 Education Session. This session sets the foundation for other work we may do in the future with them around Strengths.

At its core, a 201 Education Session sets a baseline for understanding the StrengthsFinder tool and each of the 34 Themes of Strength. This is a critical step if you hope to make any progress towards becoming a Strengths Based Organization. Since this is such a crucial aspect of helping individuals and teams understand their top five themes of Strength, I have described how we conduct this vital activity below.

How Others Do It

The first time I saw someone walk a group through all 34 Themes of Strength was in graduate school. The presenter introduced the basic idea behind StrengthsFinder and encouraged us to pay attention as he went through all 34 Themes. He did a good job moving the group through all 34 Strengths but did not allow much time for questions or conversations about each of the Themes. This is always a problem when you have limited time.

Other presenters, I have seen over the years simply taught all the Strengths back to their groups without allowing any room for discussion. This approach is dry and often leaves people wanting to ask questions. If you are in a big group where people cannot ask questions, it may be more beneficial to simply teach the “top five” Strengths of the whole group as an example. Let them know they have much more to do with the tool in the future.

Another approach was displayed by the late Chip Anderson who was a professor at UCLA. Chip taught through all the Strengths asking for feedback from participants along the way. He spent hours taking people through questions around their Strengths and dominant domains of Strength. Chip didn’t rely heavily on a PowerPoint, rather just the Strengths of the participants and his ability to get them to share about who they were based on their Strengths. He has had people talk to a dozen different people during his sessions. It is a great method, but takes a very long time!

The Leadership Vision Approach

Combining both the short on time and long on time approaches, here is how we engage participants around each of the 34 Themes of Strength:

First, we build a presentation deck of each Theme that simply focuses on the short definition and the Generative (life-giving) and Degenerative (energy-sucking) aspects of each Strength. We present all 34 Themes using the Domains of Strength (Executing, Thinking, Influencing and Relating) to organize them.

Once we begin teaching, we ask participants to raise their hands or stand if they have the Theme we are talking about. After sharing the short definition, we teach based on stories of other individuals we have worked with who also have that Theme. Having real examples of how someone uses this Strength brings it to life for the audience.

Next, we ask one or two participants to share what is like to have a particular Strength and how they use it.

We continue on in this pattern for each Strength and then finish out a domain. This can take anywhere from 15-30 minutes and you can speed it up or slow it down depending on how much time you have.

At the end of each domain, we ask a Strengths based question. Something as simple as, “How do you see one of your Strengths in your day to day life?” We have participants partner up, stand up, and talk one at a time answering the question. After a few minutes, with each person sharing, we debrief a few of the pairs and ask them to share back to the group what their partner said about his or her Strengths.

We continue this rhythm for all 4 domains of Strengths, having 3-4 partner conversations, depending on how much time we have.

How do You Teach all 34 Themes of Strength?

This activity is the bedrock of StrengthsFinder because it lays the foundation for everything else we do. People understand more about their Themes of Strength as well as those of their teammates.We hope you can use this to continue to spread the Strengths movement.

What best practices have you used to teach all 34 Themes of Strength to a group?

What has worked well?

What would you change?