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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Why Being One in a Million Really Isn’t That Special

By Maika Leibbrandt, Gallup Learning and Development Consultant

Talent is a big deal. Bigger, perhaps, than we can even imagine. Individual Clifton StrengthsFinder themes describe specific patterns of thought, feelings, or behaviour that can be productively applied. These talents are specific enough to warrant their own definitions, their own expectations, and their own successful outcomes. Even if you only study one of your Signature Themes, you could consider that theme or talent one of 34, which is like knowing you are unique in a group slightly larger than the average public school classroom.

But, as you know, the Clifton StrengthsFinder study of talent does not stop at one theme. Consider the uniqueness in your top five themes. The chance another person has the same group of strengths in their top five is roughly one in 275,000. The 2012 London Olympic Stadium holds 80,000, so that is nearly three-and-a-half times the stadium’s capacity.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

There Are No Dream Themes

By Jacque Merritt, Senior Practice Consultant

If you’re like many of my clients, friends, and family, you’ve probably thought about using the Clifton StrengthsFinder as an assessment tool to select the right person for the job. “What a great matching tool,” you’ve said. “What a great way to predict how a person will act and react!” When people voice these thoughts to me, I want to mirror their excitement about the possibilities of exploring a person’s fit using their themes, but at the same time relay a cautionary tale from an evidenced-based and bias-laced perspective.

The scenario often goes like this: you’re hiring an HR professional for your organization. You’ve written the job profile, considered the necessary competencies and the needs of the team. You know who thrives in your organization and who just survives. The last person in the role was great at engaging the team, but didn’t think “big picture” enough or hold people accountable for performance. This time around, you’re not going to compromise these qualities. You know exactly who you’re looking for -- you make your list of dream themes: Achiever, Strategic, Ideation, Futuristic, and Responsibility. You add the StrengthsFinder to your hiring process and you get to work recruiting, screening, and interviewing. Only, you keep coming up short. Sure, you find lots of candidates with the Achiever theme, and even some who also have high Strategic or Responsibility themes, too. But to find all five, your dream themes, well that appears to be like finding a needle in a haystack.

Before you go down that trail, here are some points to consider:

  • There is no correlation between any of the themes and success in a particular role. We all have our stereotypes of what might be the dream themes for a salesperson or a manager or a leader, but these unfortunately don’t work out when we put them to the test. The likelihood is just as high that someone would be a successful salesperson with high Competition, Achiever, Maximizer, Activator, and Self-Assurance as it would be if a person had high Harmony, Developer, Analytical, Relator, and Restorative
  • Even if there were a set of dream themes for a role, the odds of finding them are too low. To be specific, there is about a one in 33 million chance you would find someone with the exact top five in the order you are seeking, or a roughly one in 275,000 chance you will find that top five listed in any order. There’s your needle in the haystack.
  • Assessment tools that benchmark a candidate’s talent intensity against that of your high-potential players are better predictors of success in a particular role. This is what Gallup uses to hire talent, and it’s also the kind of assessment we build for our clients. Unfortunately, the Clifton StrengthsFinder theme sequence doesn’t give you an indication of talent intensity. So, if I have Woo as my No. 1 theme, and you have it as your No. 6 theme, your Woo could actually be stronger than mine. This is because the theme sequence each person receives is relative to their other themes, not benchmarked against other people. This is a tricky distinction, but important to consider if you’re trying to compare candidates and pick the one with the strongest talent for a given role.
  • We all have biases about certain themes. I’m always taken in by candidates with high Ideation and Input, but have a harder time connecting with those who have high Consistency and Harmony. I might always find a reason to include and exclude certain themes on my dream theme list, and these reasons have nothing to do with finding the right person for the job. 

Despite the analytics and biases that could take us down the wrong path, there is a case to be made for using the StrengthsFinder as part of the hiring process. Once you’ve done your interviewing to assess talent intensity -- and your final candidates’ talents match your best in the role -- then the StrengthsFinder is a great tool to help you choose between them. Here are some wise applications:

  • Engage in a dialogue about a candidate’s top five to explore self-awareness. Successful people observe themselves and understand how their own personality can contribute to their success and failure. They are more likely to adjust their behavior to fit a situation, or to adapt to people around them who are different. Ask candidates, “How have your themes contributed to your success? Have there been situations in the past where your themes didn’t fit the role or the team? What did you do? How might your themes fit this role?”
  • Prepare questions for the candidate that will give you clues as to how they work best. For example, in the scenario above with the HR professional who is high in Analytical, you could ask, “How would your Analytical theme help you to build our talent pipeline?” Or, “How do you use numerical data to help you make decisions? How do you work with people who lead and make decisions with their emotions?”

If the team the candidate is to join has gone through the StrengthsFinder, then map the candidates’ themes against the team to determine whether or not they might add some needed diversity to cover some gaps. If your team is full of individuals who have an abundance of themes that are action-oriented, but non-relational, then maybe your team needs someone who can create more collaboration among the team and with other groups -- perhaps someone who is strong in relational themes.

The key is to use the Clifton StrengthsFinder and a candidate’s top five themes as another piece to the selection puzzle -- a tool for use after you have narrowed down the field of applicants -- rather than to box yourself into one specific top five theme sequence that you perceive as ideal in that role.

As a leadership consultant with Gallup, Senior Practice Consultant Jacque Merritt provides executive coaching to leaders around the world. Since joining Gallup in 1989, Merritt has helped CEOs, leaders, and managers maximize their effectiveness by providing insights on how they can develop their capabilities. Merritt has also consulted with many of Gallup’s U.S.-based and international clients on team building, succession management, selection, and executive development.

Strengths: Woo | Maximizer | Input | Focus | Connectedness

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Gallup’s Called to Coach Recap: Michael Dauphinee -- S1E4

Last week’s guest coach was Michael Dauphinee, president of The Dauphinee Group, which provides consulting, coaching, leadership development support, and human resources support to individuals and companies worldwide.

You may also listen to an Audio Recording of this event.

Dauphinee lost his first job at the age of 13 because his manager said he talked too much. Thereafter, he thought he needed to position himself in roles where he talked less -- until he took the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment and discovered his strengths.

When he initially received his top five strengths, Dauphinee felt a sense of failure at the realization that he hadn’t been true to himself. His strengths report said his habitual talking was actually a strength, and that he should find a career doing something where he was able to talk more frequently. He knew he could either deny it, or somehow step into his true self.

As a consultant with Hewlett Packard, Dauphinee frequently traveled overseas – something he enjoyed, but after a while he began to notice a void in his life that he needed to fill. He left his job at HP, because he felt that he wasn’t making a difference in people’s lives – he came to the realization that no one had become a better person because of what he was doing there. This was Dauphinee’s call to coach.

Other highlights from last week’s Called to Coach:

Communication Isn’t Information Sent, It’s Information Received

When coaching managers, it’s important to help them realize that not every employee communicates the same way. Some might require a detailed plan, while others might prefer communication to come on the fly. Until managers fully understand their employees’ individual strengths, they won’t be able to properly and effectively communicate with them. This is how managers can engage their employees, instead of just sending communication in their direction.

Retaking Clifton StrengthsFinder

Dauphinee often meets people who think they need to retake the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment. He says it’s imperative, however, that if you choose to take Clifton StrengthsFinder a second time, you define why it is that you are retaking the assessment. If it’s because you want a different label and you aren’t satisfied with your current top five, don’t retake it. Instead, figure out how to step into the roles of your innate talents instead of running away from them.

Join us for the next free Called to Coach on Thursday, Aug. 29, at 1 p.m. EDT with our guest, Paul Allen -- Gallup strengths evangelist and co-founder of

For more information about Michael Dauphinee, find him on Twitter @michaeldauph or visit his website at
Dauphinee has explored the globe, from Afghanistan to Uruguay, helping others develop their strengths. Throughout his travels, he has worked with individuals, governments, and Fortune 500 companies to help them reach personal, professional, and organizational goals.
Dauphinee’s top five strengths: Communication | Command | Activator | Positivity | Relator.

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Mixed Feelings About One of Your Themes?

By Rosanne Liesveld, Managing Consultant

I have a confession to make. I’ve known my strengths, written and advised others on theirs, and embraced the philosophy for more than 10 years. But if I am truly honest, there are times even today when I still struggle to truly own two of my top five strengths. If you have ever felt a bit embarrassed when you had to “reveal” a theme that invokes less-than-positive comments from others, you are not alone. Although I know they make me great, I struggle with owning both Significance and Command as part of my Signature Themes. There’s something about those strengths in a female body that seems to make it even tougher for me to watch and hear others’ reactions to them some days.

I have learned a couple things about owning and embracing Significance and Command that I think may help others with whatever theme it is that they sometimes want to disown.

First of all, one (or two) themes are not who we are completely. My hope is that my Command is often made more palatable because of my Relator theme. For example, I will stand up for my close friends, even when others shy away. And I know my Significance is most powerful when I communicate it as a sister theme with Belief, which helps me see the long-term importance of doing what I know is right.

Second, we have the power of choice. The truth is that these two themes -- Significance and Command -- can be deadly, or they can enliven. But it’s up to me to decide how much I apply them productively. I still remember the day Don Clifton, researcher and genius behind the Clifton StrengthsFinder, sat in my office and talked to me about how one’s themes are not strengths until they are productively applied. So, every day I must ask myself, “How will I make Command productive in my life? How can I fine-tune that Significance and use it appropriately to create positive impact?”

The bottom line is this: We are not simply single instruments. We are complicated orchestras. Please don’t ever let one of your themes make you paranoid about what others might think about you. Instead, be ready to show yourself as a beautifully complex human being, always tuning up each theme so the melody weaves into your story in harmony with your experiences, your goals, and your talents. Embracing this allows you to live a truly beautiful life melody.

Rosanne M. Liesveld is a Managing Consultant with Gallup. She consults with K-12 school districts to develop comprehensive recruiting, assessment, hiring, and development strategies for teachers and principals. Liesveld is also coauthor of Teach With Your Strengths, a book on strengths-based development for educators and school systems.

Strengths: Futuristic | Activator | Significance | Relator | Command

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