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Friday, July 31, 2015

Compare and Contrast: Input

How Your Least Favorite English Composition Essay Question can Build Your Coaching Knowledge-base

By Al Winseman

Some of the most meaningful moments I’ve had in the last three years came while I had the extreme privilege of co-leading strengths coaching courses with Gallup’s strengths guru, the late Curt Liesveld. I always learned so much from Curt -- about strengths, about coaching and about life. One of the many things I learned from Curt was the value of comparing and contrasting. Curt would often say that one of the best ways to gain clarity on themes was to do what your English teacher asked you to do in essays: compare and contrast. Just as this process helped students better understand what were oftentimes complex concepts, it can also help coaches better understand the intricacies of different themes.

Any theme, when paired with another, takes on the power and edge of its partner. So the beauty in understanding how two themes work together lies in the opportunity it provides us as coaches. We can help people understand they are not either one theme or another, but the combination of several themes taken altogether. 

If you’re ready to take your understanding of individual themes to the next level, this activity of compare and contrast will help you better coach around the themes of talent. This installment compares and contrasts Input with Learner, Analytical and Includer. 

Input and Learner:

Input and Learner are extremely close in nature. So close, in fact, that some of our strengths experts have suggested that if we were to shrink the number of Clifton StrengthsFinder themes from 34 to 33, Learner and Input could be combined. I would suggest that these two themes are different. Yes, they are similar in many respects, but there are some important differences between them. Learner loves the process of learning -- taking a class, getting a certification and generally sequentially building a knowledge base. Input is more concerned about the collection of useful information, tools and resources. Learner tends to be more systematic, considering the experience of acquiring knowledge and eventually mastery of a subject as a goal. Input can be more pragmatic, focusing on the information itself rather than the process. Learner is targeted; Input is broad and varied. Strong Learner loves mastery of a subject; strong Input loves to be useful and helpful. The inquisitiveness of Learner tends to be focused on deepening one’s understanding of a certain subject, while the inquisitiveness of Input tends to desire broadening the variety of subjects one has access to knowing about.

Input and Analytical:

Both of these are what I call "questioning” themes. Both Input and Analytical ask a lot of questions. Both want to know more. Both are inquisitive. But it is the nature and intent of the questions and inquisitiveness that sets the questioning aspect of these themes apart. Input's questions are, "Tell me more, tell me more, tell me more," in an effort to gather more information that may or may not be useful. The information in and of itself is the prize, because as a collector of ideas or things (or both), information is golden. Input is about breadth of information. Analytical, on the other hand, has a more direct purpose for questioning. Analytical's questions are, "Prove it to me, prove it to me, prove it to me." It’s not simply, "Tell me more,” but instead, "Show me the data." Analytical wants more data, more proof, more evidence that you've done your homework. Analytical wants to know that the thought process is sound, and that a credible case has been made for any position or idea. Partnering with someone with Input expands your thinking; partnering with someone with Analytical refines your thinking.

Input and Includer:

Both Input and Includer are “gathering” themes: Input gathers information, ideas and perhaps even tangible things. Includer gathers people. Includer goes out to bring more people into the circle; Input goes out to bring in more ideas, information or tools. Input asks, “What else do we need to know?” Includer asks, “Who else needs to know?” I often think of both Input and Includer as “diversity” themes. Input is accepting of a diversity of ideas; Includer is accepting of a diversity of people. There can be a great depth of consideration for both themes, given Input’s hunger for more information and Includer’s ability to consider multiple viewpoints. Includer draws the circle wider to bring in more people; Input expands the circle of knowledge available for useful purposes.

This is the first in a series of “compare and contrast” blogs. Which themes would you most like to see compared and contrasted? Keep watching -- more are on the way!

Albert L. Winseman, D.Min., is a Senior Learning and Development Consultant at Gallup. Al brings deep expertise in employee and customer engagement, executive leadership and organizational dynamics to his consulting work with Gallup’s clients. He consults with senior leaders, executives and front-line managers to improve employee and customer engagement and to implement strategic initiatives that drive business growth. 

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Anonymous said...

As someone with Input & Learner I greatly appreciate you separately the two! I apply those strengths in very different ways. I'd love to see some contrast/compare between Command/Self-Assurance, Belief/Significance, Arranger/Strategic, Focus/Achiever, Empathy/Harmony...I could keep going. Loved your article!

Lisa said...


Thank you for sharing your fresh way of clarifying CFS themes with the "compare and contrast" format! Exceptional article.

I have been strengths coaching for several years and the one theme I still struggle a bit with is Maximizer. If you could "compare and contrast" Maximizer with themes that would be best paired with Maximizer in this format, I would appreciate it!

With the majority of individuals I have known/coached with Maximizer as a dominant theme, I see clearly the ROI component constantly clicking through their brains. "What is the least amount of time I need to spend on this and still make it good?" or, "Is this person I am working with worth my time in the future?"

I have also seen many Maximizers with a belief in this mantra,"If you don't have to re-create the wheel - then don't;" they have been amazingly good at taking something good and making it great - again with as little investment (time/effort) as possible...

Any help you could give on confirming my observations, calling me out on a bias/or misinterpretation would be much appreciated! Looking to see more of the "Excellence" and "Influence" of Maximizer...


Pradeep Vaishnav said...

Very interesting blog.
I have one Coachee who has Strategic,Analytical, Focus Ideation and responsibility. Do you agree that he has first four are to some extent contradicting themes ?
How do you handle this?

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Wynne Jacobson said...

I really enjoyed this post! I have Input at #1, Learner at #11, and am always gathering new information, especially about talent themes and coaching. I do tend to focus on certain topics for gaining knowledge, but I also put a high value on mastering the information I gather, so there is that mastery element of Learner.

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