Understanding your Phantom Strengths

Carrie Jones and I work very closely together. None of our top five Strengths are the same. I had to purchase my list of all 34 Strengths to see where we finally had a Strength overlap. At number 16, I have the StrengthsFinder theme of Responsibility, which is in Carrie’s Top 5. Similarly, the theme of Achiever is not in Carrie’s top five Strengths. However, I have behaviors and tendencies that often look like Responsibility.

Likewise, Carrie has behaviors and tendencies that seem as though she has Achiever. When these behaviors and tendencies show up we say to one another, “that’s your phantom Responsibility / Achiever coming out!” This allows us a moment to pause and realize we are actually working toward to the same outcome.

“Phantom Strengths” is not an official Gallup or Leadership Vision term. It’s simply how we describe various Talents combining to look like a Strength that a person doesn’t actually have.

Sometimes, the “phantom Strength” may be in an individual’s top ten and you simply don’t know it. Other times, like my phantom Responsibility, it is the pairing of Talents that may lead you to believe an individual has a Strength they do not have.

Pairings of Strengths

My top two Strengths are Achiever and Discipline. Everything I do goes on a checklist (Achiever) and I instinctively create structure to then complete that checklist (Discipline). I am not able to let something go until the box has been checked.

Interestingly, one of the Talent’s of Responsibility reads,

You will not quit or be able to completely rest until you’ve achieved your goal or personal satisfaction.

Sounds similar, doesn’t it? Remember, Responsibility is number 16 on my list of Themes. So, in certain situations the pairing of my Achiever and Discipline may look like Responsibility – phantom Responsibility.

Learning to “Speak Strengths”

Carrie and I often have conversations during which we name a specific Strength of our own or each other’s. “My Focus is having a hard time keeping up with your Strategic,” or she will ask me, “What is your Discipline thinking?”. We begin to speak in the third person though our Strengths.

The more you get to know Strengths and understand the Talents associated with each one, the easier it becomes to name Strengths in other people. However, no matter how long you’ve been a Strengths expert, or how fluent you are in the language of Strengths, every now and then you may guess wrong.

We teach Strengths Communicators not only to hear the individual Talents within a Theme, but taught to look for pairings of them. You’re asked to identify how all five Themes of Strength work together in one person.

So, sometimes you need to take a step back and asked yourself, “what could be pairing and showing up as a phantom Strength?” What two Strengths, when paired together, look like a different Strength?

Why is This Important?

When you’re able to recognize a “phantom Strength” it can give you greater insight into how your actual Strengths behave. Although you may not have a particular Theme in your top 5, you may operate in a manner that looks like that theme using talents from other Strengths to get to the same result. Just because I don’t have Responsibility in my top 5, doesn’t meant I don’t act that way from time to time. It just doesn’t come as naturally as someone like Carrie who has it in her top 5.

This is important for you to understand, because it can provide deeper insight into your own Strengths and the Strengths of others. It may allow you to bring greater clarity and deeper insight to your motivations and behaviors.

Do you Have Phantom Strengths?

As you think about your Themes of Strengths and how they pair together, do you see any phantom Strengths emerging? If so, which ones?