A Lifetime of Strengths: Understanding StrengthsFinder in Retirement

My parents have been married for over 50 years. People came out of the woodwork to wish them a happy golden anniversary. The generative nature of their strengths is evident in people’s cards, comments, and Facebook “likes”. The way they have lived their lives has left a legacy of love, loyalty, and faithfulness. They didn’t have StrengthsFinder™ when they were growing up or going to school. They didn’t use a tool like strengths to help them get jobs, get married or make choices. So, what happens when you take StrengthsFinder in retirement?

One year for Christmas I bought my mom and dad StrengthsFinder™ 2.0 books to help explain to them what I do for a living.  My plan was to have them take the psychometric, walk them through highlights of the Leadership Vision approach, and have them talk about their results. In my mind, this was straightforward.

Everyone knows my parents are polar opposites. Everyone knows they are individually strong leaders and have led amazing lives. I have been using my folks as illustrations during talks, teaching seminars, and speeches for years. Laughter ensues and most people appreciate a good story that just happens to be true. You can’t make these stories up.

My Presuppositions

If I’m honest, my strengths of connectedness and individualization wanted my mom and dad to get a sense of what I did and of what their only child was up to. I’m a consultant who uses StrengthsFinder™ to help people, teams and cultures celebrate their brilliance, beauty and genius.

Yes, but what does that really mean?  It means I’m always curious and poised to be surprised or inspired.

The First Step

This is what happened after they opened their gifts of a book and a “good for one strengths session” coupon… My mom went to the computer first to take the StrengthsFinder™. She was diligent and proper asking for clarification and looking at the computer screen over her nose as most senior citizens do. My dad went next. He can’t help himself from smiling and cracking jokes along the way, but he got down to business when the questions surfaced.

They printed their results, and we went into the living room of my childhood home. My mom had a pen in hand and her strengths papers on a clipboard. She was poised to take notes. My dad was kicked back on the couch next to her. He explained that he really wasn’t looking for a job but this would be fun. Because this was actually about me, not him, and it wasn’t a job finding tool.

Linda Parents with drinks

Analyzing Their Results

As I gazed down at their results, I instantly realized their strengths pointed to two people who have lived out of their strengths their entire lives. Decades of sharpened character and love have given their talents a place to grow, mature, and generate life in so many others.

Even though she would probably never use this information again, my mom’s strengths of Learner, Discipline and Consistency took notes on each theme of strength, asked for clarification, and showed enthusiasm about the information I shared. Her Harmony and Responsibility explained things to my dad and told him to “listen” when he was being a squirmy student.

My dad’s strengths of Positivity, Adaptability, and Woo had a funny example or giggle for each thing I said. He was so present, so alive, and celebrated each step. He even became a bit emotional at the end when he told me how proud he was of me. His strengths of Developer and Empathy are tangible.

Affirming a Legacy

Among many things, walking my parents through the StrengthsFinder™ helped me affirm their legacy as individuals and as a married couple who have selflessly served in the community, the church, and the schools. As we look back over the decades of their lives, we can see where certain strengths come from, how they grew and matured, and how they have left us a great heritage and a wake of inspiration.

My parents are decades into retirement. Their retirement has been busier than a lot of employed people. Each day, they have modeled the way to live your lives to the fullest for the sake of others.

Strengths are applicable to everyone, in every stage of life and open a space for individuals to share their perspective.

Have you shared your top 5 themes of strength with your co-workers, friends and/or family? Do you know the themes of strength for those you spend the most time with? Does this provide a new narrative for you?