Strengths Coaching Blog

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Journey From ‘Ahhh’ to ‘Aha’! What’s Next Upon Discovering Your Strengths?

By Heather Wright, Senior Learning and Development Consultant

The first time you saw your Clifton StrengthsFinder results, which was it -- “ahhh” (a moment of confirmation or clarity) or “aha” (a moment of true self-discovery)? And how did you move to the eventual aha that really helped you make a difference? 

In my experience, people typically find themselves in awe that a 30-minute session on their computer could so accurately describe them. The other ahhh happens when they finally have a clear way to put into words what others often say when describing them. This ahhh is a revelation of clarity and confidence they can use to describe what they truly do best. Then there is occasionally the aha moment, where someone truly experiences self-discovery and enhanced self-awareness. Whether a person’s strengths journey starts with awe, ahhh, or aha -- what comes next is almost always the same question: “So now what?”

Helping people answer this question is something I truly enjoy. In fact, I tell my clients that they can depend on me to be their “strengths nag” -- making sure they use their strengths in a very intentional way. I have found that for many people there is a strengths awareness that eventually progresses to application if the individual is willing to put forth some effort.

To help clients apply their strengths in everyday life, I encourage them to name, claim, and aim their strengths.

Name It*
Just taking the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment gives individuals an entirely new language to describe themselves in a positive way. They now have 34 new words in their vocabulary to describe what is right with them, and they can focus on the top five talent themes that are the strongest part of who they are. Like learning any new language, it is important to practice the vocabulary, so I encourage clients to tell as many people as possible what their top five themes are and read their report regularly.

Claim It*
After the initial reaction to the assessment results, it is then time to embrace the top five and stake ownership of the talents and how they fit. It is not until people take a close look at their talents that they begin to discover the amazing variety, intricacy, and power that they have.  Sometimes, the title of a talent theme or certain phrases in a theme definition can feel counterintuitive, so a person may be reluctant to accept the description. I encourage them to share the Clifton StrengthsFinder report with others who know them well, and know them in different aspects of their life. They should invite others to read the report and point out specific examples of application of these talents in their interactions with the individual. I also encourage personalization of the talent theme definitions by highlighting words or phrases that resonate and crossing out anything that doesn’t fit. I also suggest writing a synthesis of the five themes to create an individual strengths statement. This reshaping can provide heightened awareness of how a person’s talents have supported their success to date.

Aim It*
Now comes the work. Our ability to achieve excellence and get the most out of life is connected to the extent to which we intentionally build strengths from our talents. Unless a person commits to using their talents with greater intention, they may be leaving untapped potential on the table. To get others to increase their own success, I ask people to look at their personal and professional world and think about specific tasks where their talents are being used, draw connections between each task and the talents being applied, and then consider other potential talents that could also be in play. I ask them to think about tasks that are required of them, where they don’t see an immediate link to their talent themes. Could any of their talents really come to life with more conscious application?

One way I expand on the Name It/Claim It/Aim It model is to encourage clients to flame their strengths so the impact spreads to others.

Flame It
As an individual begins to turn their talents into strengths and increase their own performance, there is often a simultaneous awareness of other peoples’ talents. They begin to notice how we each bring something unique to projects, processes, and relationships. When someone can fan the flames of their own talent so that it has an impact on the development or success of another person, they are truly using their talents for maximum impact. Conscious application of talents can be felt by others; it even inspires the flames to spread to others.

It isn’t enough to simply identify talent. Where there is awareness, there needs to be action; when there is action, growth is more likely to occur. When we are willing to take that next step with talent, all the awes, ahhhs, and ahas turn into awesome outcomes.  

*You can learn more about the Name It/Claim It/Aim It model in Gallup’s Fundamentals of Strengths Coaching course.

Heather Wright is a Senior Learning and Development Consultant based in Gallup’s Omaha office. For the past 25 years, she has helped clients deepen the talents of their workforce and strengthen their organizations. Her HumanSigma work in the financial services industry has helped clients become recognized favorably by consumers during tumultuous times in their industries. Wright holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in human resource development from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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