There is one question we seem to get a lot as it relates to the top 5 StrengthsFinder Theme report: Is there such a thing as Strengths Balance? At Leadership Vision, we believe there is no such thing as ‘Strengths Balance’ or having the ‘right’ set of Strengths for a given job or leadership role. In this episode, we discuss our understanding of balance as it pertains to Strengths and how to shift the conversation from balanced or unbalanced to focusing on what’s right about you.
Strengths & Balance
People often worry about things like, “what do I do if I don’t have Strengths in one or more of the four domains?” Or, “Is it bad if all, or a majority of my Strengths are in just one or two of the four domains?” Or even sometimes people think maybe they aren’t good enough or qualified, or in some way unfit for their role, however that’s defined, because they are lacking a specific Theme of Strength they think would be better in a certain leadership role. Well, the short answer to the balance question is no, it’s not bad, and obviously, certain Strengths aren’t better than any other.
Every spring, Gallup releases their Global Theme Frequency report listing all 34 Strengths from the most common to the least common. These results come from the 20+ million people who have taken CliftonStrengths, since 1998. In 2019, the year in which we have the most recent data at the time of this recording, doesn’t really reveal anything new in terms of frequency from the past several reports I’ve seen. Just looking at the data from the United States, once again, the Theme of Achiever has remained the most commonly occurring Theme, showing up about a third of the time in people’s top 5 Strengths. Now there could be lots of explanations for this; remember this is just the data from the United States. So maybe it has to do with our cultural focus on getting stuff done, or maybe as we know, people with the Theme of Achiever like to get a lot done, so assessments like this are another one of those things they can cross off their lists. Responsibility is number two on the list and those folks, as we know, have a great ability to also get a lot done
Conversely, at the bottom of the list, or the least frequent Themes, are Self-Assurance, Command, and Significance. they Show up in less than 5% of an individual’s Top 5 Strengths. And these themes are all in the Influencing Domain. In fact, the first of the eight Strengths in the Influencing Domain doesn’t show up on this frequency list until number 15 of 34, and that’s Communication. Woo, which seems like a more frequent Theme, sits at 24 out of 34.
So my point is simply that, as a whole, if you look at the Themes of Strength that are supposed to help us influence others, well, those are rare – at least among those who have participated in this assessment in the United States. Does that mean if you don’t have any Influencing Strengths you don’t have the ability to influence people? Well, no, but, let’s come back to that.
Is There Such a Thing as Strengths Balance?
At Leadership Vision, we believe that it doesn’t matter if you don’t have strengths in all four domains. We believe there is no such thing as ‘Strengths Balance’ or having the ‘right’ set of Strengths for a given job or leadership role. Instead, we hold to the following three beliefs when using Strengths results:
1. Focus on What’s Right
First, we want to focus on what’s right about you. Generative vs degenerative. We’re using Strengths as one tool to see what makes you unique. We want to begin by focusing on the positive; focusing on the Strengths that you as an individual have versus the Strengths you don’t have. We live in a deficit-minded society where we are constantly trying to fix what’s “wrong” with us. Early on in the Strengths movement, and I think still somewhat today, people would focus on the “dark side” of Strengths, or what we call the degenerative side of Strengths. Instead of asking how to overcome a perceived deficit or lack of any, let’s say, influencing Themes, we want to help people concentrate on leveraging the Themes from the domains that are in your Top 5.
For example, after spending time with someone, we might uncover that a person with mostly relating Themes, is using those to influence others. Or conversely, someone with mostly influencing themes is using those to relate to others in ways that are life-giving to everyone involved. But it’s really hard to figure any of this out without sitting down and having a conversation with an individual and understanding more of their story.
2. Descriptive Not Prescriptive
Our second belief is that we take a descriptive versus prescriptive approach to Strengths. We emphasize the need to know someone’s complete narrative to understand how their talents play together, hence our emphasis on the 1 to 1 conversation. There is a 1 in 33 million chance that you have the same Top 5 Strengths as someone else. Each of your Top 5 Strengths is broken up into 14 talents. How those 70 talents interact and play together makes you infinitely unique in your approach to influencing others, relating to others, getting work done, and making decisions.
A descriptive approach using Strengths simply to describe behaviors, not prescribe actions you should take or decisions you should make. When we sit down to look at your Themes report, we can see that you perhaps like to engage the world in a certain way. We can also help you see how those Themes help you accomplish all four of the “big tasks” from the four domains.
The prescriptive approach says that because you have the Theme of [fill in one of your Themes here] then you ALWAYS interact a certain way or you should only be involved in these types of situations.
3. Strengths Pairs
Our third belief is that Strengths don’t work alone. Each of your Strengths is constantly pairing with your other Strengths to get work done, influence people, make decisions, and relate to people. For example, my Top 5 Strengths are Maximizer, Communication, Ideation, Futuristic, and Adaptability. I often think that my Futuristic is the Theme that is the stickiest, meaning, something else is always pairing with it depending on the situation.
I LOVE to think about the future. In fact, right now, I’m sitting in a little tiny cabin in the middle of nowhere in Washington State. It’s snowing outside and I keep thinking about what it would be like to own a little property and a small cabin like this in the future. My Communication is thinking about ways I can sell this idea to my wife, my Maximizer is thinking about the best way to find an affordable property that’s close enough to our house to be convenient and far enough away to feel like a break from normal life, and my Adaptability is thinking about all the various combinations of activities we would need to keep the ideas happy. In the background of all of this is a constant flow of dozens of ideas on how to make this all happen. My point is that you don’t only use one Theme or another to accomplish whatever goals you may have. It’s about understanding how they ALL work together in various scenarios.
To make this ever a little more complicated, the Talents you resonate with the most in your Top 5 Themes change. How you resonate with those talents shifts how your Strengths pair with other Strengths.
So, back to the original question, “is there such a thing as Strengths Balance?”
Simply put, no. In fact, I wish we could change the conversation to instead focus on what’s right about you, pay attention to what comes naturally, understand your personal narrative and how you got to where you are today and put all that together to leverage what you’re instinctively and intrinsically good at. If you can do this, we believe you will be more engaged, more productive, and more joyful.
A New Question
A new question I would challenge you to consider is, “how do I engage my Strengths to be the best version of me?”
Spend time learning about each of your Strengths, pause when you notice yourself leaning into your natural talents, and ask other people what they think you’re good at. Pay attention to those moments where you feel most alive, where you are in a flow state, and where it seems that you bring life and a greater sense of wellbeing to others. Whether your Top 5 Strengths are common or uncommon, whether you have all Thinking Strengths or no Thinking Strengths, we believe, with your unique application of your Top 5 Themes, you can get work done, influence people, make decisions, and relate to others.
Balance in Your Strengths
How do the examples in this episode match with your experience? Have you struggled with or wrestled with any of these big questions? We’d love to hear from you and learn more. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with us on social media, or comment on this blog.
About The Leadership Vision Podcast
The Leadership Vision Podcast is a weekly show sharing our expertise in the discovery, practice, and implementation of a strengths-based approach to people, teams, and culture. We believe that knowing your Strengths is only the beginning. Our highest potential exists in the ongoing exploration of our talents. Subscribe to the Leadership Vision Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
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