Strengths Coaching Blog

Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Comparison of CliftonStrengths and the StandOut Assessment Theory

By Adam Hickman and Mary Claire Evans

There are a variety of assessment-based development theories and tools in the market today that coaches can use. In this blog, we will compare two theories — the StandOut Assessment Theory and CliftonStrengths — weighing out the differences and providing a little history, too.

StandOut Assessment Theory

The StandOut Assessment was developed and tested by the Marcus Buckingham Company between 2001 and 2010. Marcus Buckingham worked with Dr. Donald Clifton at Gallup and co-authored the 2001 Gallup book Now, Discover Your Strengths with Dr. Clifton. The book presented a positive, strengths-based psychology lens, and Buckingham duplicated the efforts of the strengths-based philosophy when establishing the StandOut Assessment. In essence, the assessment aims to determine what is right with individuals and build upon their strengths. In the introduction to his book, StandOut, Buckingham acknowledges that he replicates the perspective of the CliftonStrengths Assessment. However, instead of the 34 talent themes, the book focuses on Nine Strengths Roles; and instead of one’s top five strengths, StandOut reveals a person's top two strength roles. One can see the similarity in just the results of the assessment. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

What About Weaknesses? Part 2 With Dean Jones - Called to Coach S6E4

On a recent Called to Coach, we spoke with the Principal Architect of Gallup's Global Learning Strategy, Dean Jones.

Weaknesses – we all have a lot of them!

Don Clifton quote – “Focus on what’s right” – get interpreted as never think about weaknesses

  • Historical context – nascent age of psychology
  • Any development journey includes an assessment (an accounting) of what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s working and not working
Important component of growth is self-awareness.  Self-awareness is incomplete without an awareness or appreciation of weaknesses.  

Six assertions about weaknesses to inform the discussion:

  1. Strengths and weaknesses are not opposites.  You don’t create a strength out of a weakness.  
    • Strengths are based on a repository of talent.  When you dig into a weakness, you seldom find a talent – you typically find an absence of talent.  
  2. People often take their talent for granted – the fallacy of ease.  So they are inclined to invest in areas where things seem hard, assuming that mastering them will provide the great growth.  
    • They think what comes easily must not be valuable, and what is hard and takes work is better.  Work at what comes easily. 
    • Mastery is about capitalizing on talent, rather than overcoming the odds.
    • “Rudy” is about a moment of victory, not a lifetime of success and accomplishment.  Where could you best apply yourself?  In the end, it’s a sad story. 
  3. You can’t “fix” a weakness.  There is really nothing to fix – nothing to work with.  You need to aware of it, account for it.  
    • Like driving around a barrier, rather than driving through it.  
  4. Weaknesses don’t really develop in the same way as strengths.  Strengths develop infinitely.  
    • They develop incrementally – they don’t have the same return.
    • They don’t develop in the same fluid, intuitive fashion 
      • Rhythm to a dancer
      • Mikaela Shifferin – “just getting started”
  5. Weaknesses get uncovered over time.  
    • CliftonStrengths is like a treasure map – it tells you where to start digging.  But experience and application over time give you real understanding of your strengths and weaknesses.  
    • You might go back to the map to orient yourself, but you want to focus on the application and experience of talents to develop them.
  6. Weaknesses are relative. As you develop, yesterday’s strengths are today’s weaknesses. 
    • You get narrow. You focus. That is the path to being world class. 
    • The best get ruthless - honest, truthful - about their weaknesses, so they can keep focusing. 

Much work of strengths coaches can be helping people become aware of their weaknesses and use their strengths to overcome them.  

Usually that means a strengths coaches need to help the person they are coaching with:

  • Being aware of their weaknesses
  • Being responsible for them
  • Using strengths-based strategies to manage them and produce results

  • Weaknesses can often be in areas that are blind spots
  • People may have a passing awareness of their weaknesses – but don’t really see the impact
  • Awareness-building often happens through a combination of receiving feedback and understanding impact
    • Direct feedback is most valuable 
    • Understanding the impact on two levels – impact on others, and impact on self
Awareness issues:

  • Claiming strengths you don’t have
  • Not seeing weaknesses
  • Being unaware of your strengths
  • Being unaware of your non talents 


  • People who legitimately know their strengths tend to be more forthcoming with their weaknesses. 
    • Fatal flaw is believing their strengths apply to everything (Icarus)
  • You can’t make someone be responsible – they have to give it to themselves.  It is a process of taking ownership.  
    • Not about finding fault – it’s about understanding that “I have a say in the way this goes.” 

Strengths-based Strategies

  • It only makes sense that the best way to apply yourself to addressing your weaknesses would be to use your areas of greatest talent.  
    • That’s why we look to our strengths as the best way to address weaknesses.

Strategies for addressing weaknesses:

  1. Create Open Dialogue and Transparency
  2. Intentionally Leverage your Strengths
  3. Find Support Systems
  4. Build Complementary Partnerships
  5. Get the Right Education
  6. Set Reasonable Standards and Just Do It
  7. Adjust or Change Roles

This is not about inspiration.  This is not about “believe in yourself.”  This is about identifying and getting clear about your talent - and then putting it to work. 

Join us at the 2018 CliftonStrengths Summit to learn more about improving your workplace through strengths. Register today before early bird pricing ends! 

Visit Gallup Strengths Center to browse our myriad of products and learning opportunities for strengths-based development.

Continue the coaching conversation on Facebook and Twitter. It’s a great way to network with others who share a passion for strengths!

Dean Jones is the principal architect of Gallup's global client learning strategy. Dean consults with clients on strategic solutions to address key business issues, including organizational development, performance management, learning and development, productivity and workforce effectiveness. He oversees the direction of Gallup's client learning offerings, the development of the organization's learning consultants, and the growth of Gallup's learning business worldwide, including its public course offerings and learning products.

Dean Jones's top five strengths are Activator, Focus, Woo, Strategic and Relator.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Mastery Monday: Productive Aiming: Arranger

By Albert L. Winseman, D.Min

A juggler. A conductor. A multi-tasker. 

If you have Arranger in your top five Signature Themes, you’ve likely heard someone use one of these phrases to describe you — or perhaps you’ve used them yourself! Arrangers like complexity, intricacy, motion and configuring people and systems for optimum results. Their talents may focus primarily on systems or processes — i.e., creating the perfect flow-chart (with enough flexibility built in for when circumstances change). Or their primary focus may be spatial and tactile — i.e., arranging and rearranging the furniture to maximize the available space, esthetic considerations and traffic patterns. It might be focused toward people and teams — i.e., getting the right people in the right role to create an efficient, high-functioning team. Or it may be all three. The point is, Arranger has a way of getting things done using a flexible, organizational mindset that maximizes productivity.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Managers Are Agents; Employees Are the Stars

By Tim Simon

Many of us are familiar with cult-classic Office Space — a movie about a group of software employees fed up with their jobs and their boss, Bill Lumbergh. In the film, their fictional company, Initech, hires a consulting firm to help the company downsize. We can all recall the scene when Peter Gibbons, the film’s “hero” who is sick and tired of the situation, saunters into his interview with the two consultants, Bob and Bob, and decides to just lay it all out there. When asked to describe his typical day at work, Peter admits he usually comes in at least 15 minutes late and, “After that, I just sorta space out for an hour. I do that for probably another hour after lunch, too … I’d say in a given week I probably only do about fifteen minutes of real, actual work. The thing is, Bob, it's not that I'm lazy. It's just that I don't care.” When “the Bob’s” press for more information, Peter goes on to complain that “… when I make a mistake, I have eight different people coming by to tell me about it. That's my real motivation — not to be hassled. That and the fear of losing my job. But y'know, Bob, it will only make someone work hard enough not to get fired.”

How many times have we as coaches encountered similar situations? The movie gives us a funny — and accurate — depiction of an actively disengaged employee and a really bad manager. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Mastery Monday: Productive Aiming: Analytical

By Albert L. Winseman, D.Min

Where did you get that information? What does the data say? Have you done your homework? What are your sources? What is the evidence to back it up? How do you know this will work? 

If you have Analytical among your Signature Themes, these are most likely very familiar questions — perhaps ones you ask on a regular basis. Analytical focuses on facts to find patterns and reach conclusions. Those with strong Analytical talents tend to be logical and rigorous in their thinking; before acting, they will weigh the evidence and study the data to make an informed decision — and only when convinced by the evidence the data provides will they take action. Sound thinking is the hallmark of the Analytical theme and objectivity is the goal.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Strengths-Based Resolutions: Applying Strengths to My Own Personal Challenge

By Linda Moorman

As a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach, I have the privilege of helping people use their strengths to positively influence their work and life every day. I have also successfully maximized my own strengths in just about every part of my life. 

There was one challenge, though, that I just could not conquer: my annual New Year’s Resolution to shed the 40 pounds I’d needed to lose my entire adult life. Instead, those 40 pounds turned into 50 pounds, then 60, and then finally, close to 100 pounds. I still gulp when I think about just how much weight I had gained in all those years of trying so hard to lose weight. I blamed it on my lack of discipline — I just needed to make better food choices and be more structured about exercise, right? Wrong. As it turns out, this coach needed to heal herself. I was failing because I was trying to tackle my problem in ways that were tailor-made for talents I just didn’t have.

A crucial conversation with my doctor last March helped me apply my strengths toward this one big failure in a way I hadn’t done before. Every time Dr. Mohring had seen me in the two years since becoming my doctor, he had urged me to lose weight. And at every checkup, I promised him that by next time, for sure, I would. But last March, my doctor asked some different questions. As a coach, I know the power of asking short, open ended questions to get clients to open their thinking, and those were the kinds of questions he asked that day. The coach in me knew exactly what he was doing as I employ similar techniques in my coaching practice. I specifically remember him asking, “What do you really want for your health and life this next year?” and, “What do you need to do differently to make that happen?” This time, something finally clicked. As a strengths coach, it’s always gratifying when a client really “gets it” and figures out how to aim their strengths at a goal or challenge. That is what happened to me — I finally applied my strengths to tackle the biggest challenge in my life.

Search This Blog for Coaching Topics