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Use Your Strengths, Become a Super Hero

posted Oct 18, 2009, 7:12 PM by Danny Eusebio   [ updated Oct 18, 2009, 7:22 PM ]

Well, maybe you won't turn into a superhero, but you might be close to it. A couple years ago I took the Strengths Finder test. At the time, I didn't really understand the ramifications of the test and the results I would get. But recently I learned a little more about it after attending a conference. The Strengths Finder test isn't a way to find what your real strengths are, they are however, ways to find your talents. The idea behind Strengths Finder is to help you identify the key things that you are strong in. Here's a useful example (the info is inaccurate because I'm recalling from memory, but the idea is there). A case study was done that took below average reading students in 7th grade to a reading camp for 1 week. They read roughly 40 words a minute. After the camp, the students were reading about a 150 words a minute. Not bad. When they took students who were above average readers that could read about 300 words a minute, the 1 week camp skyrocketed their reading abilities to 900 words a minute. Simple point, if you work on your strengths, they only keep getting stronger (a lot stronger).

A lot of college students are always unsure of what they want to do in life. And honestly, not knowing what you want to do is not a luxury many can afford--considering how the job market is. What might be a good start is understanding a little more about what you're good in. Now I can't claim that the Strengths Finder will work for everyone, but considering its success and popularity in many companies/organizations, you can't deny that there's something there.

How it Works
You take a somewhat long test, usually takes about 30-40 minutes. You're asked to answer a lot of questions relating to you and your personality. None of the questions are extremely weird or anything. For example, your given two choices. "Are you the type that will want to go out to a party without knowing anyone?" or "Are you the type that will hang out with a small group of friends?" With those two choices, you pick on a spectrum asking what describes you the best. Usually you want to avoid the neutral answer, as it makes it harder to get an accurate gauge of your real strengths. You answer a hundred or so of these questions with a given time limit of 20 seconds. You're only given 20 seconds because it prevents you from thinking too much. You want to pick the answer that best comes to your mind.

After the exam, the Strengths Finder calculates your results and lets you know what your top 5 strengths are. There is a total of 34 that are identified by the test. Here's what I got:

  1. Significance
  2. Relator
  3. Ideation
  4. Futuristic
  5. Strategic

You might be thinking, well, what the hell do all of them mean. Good point. To avoid that, Strengths Finder gives you detailed information as to what these strengths mean. Usually the descriptions are fairly consistent with who you are. Now, don't get too concerned if you feel that some of the strengths you got aren't the ones you thought you should have gotten. I mean, I know I'm a good communicator, but that wasn't one of my top 5 strengths. Also, I believe that I should have gotten empathy as a strength, but didn't get that as well. One thing to note is that your strengths normally reflect what you are currently experiencing. Usually the strengths you are utilizing at that time will appear. The second time I took the test, 3 out of my 5 strengths stayed the same. Normally the strengths are pretty consistent and they don't happen to change even after a few years of taking it.

Understanding your Strengths
So after your test, you read into the strengths a little more. You learn what each of your strengths mean. For example, "Relator" is someone who is selective about their friends. You also like to help people succeed in their goals and aspirations. You derive a lot of joy from doing so. Someone who is Futuristic is quite straightforward. You usually talk about the future a lot. You find strength and motivation in thinking of the possibilities.

How to use Strengths to help your Organization
Learning about your strengths alone isn't what makes Strengths Finder so useful, its understanding how to use it on a Team Level. For instance, based on your strengths you might find a person in your organization who has a lot of executing abilities. Meaning, a lot of their strengths are focused on getting things done. On the other hand, you have another person who has a lot of Strategic strengths. Their good at thinking things through. However, sometimes they think too much and never get things done. If you put together an Executer and a Strategist in a group, you'll have a good match up to balance each other. It's important to balance out team members. Executive and Strategic aren't the only main categories, the other two are Relationship and Influencing. 
Someone who has strengths under Influencing, means its really easy for you to gain other peoples acceptance. One of the most interesting strengths in this category is called Woo, which means "winning over others." It just means you have this ability to get people to trust you. If you have strengths under the Relationship category, its self explanatory. You're good at forming and developing relationship with others.

In strengthening your organization you want to have people balanced in every area.

How to use your Strengths at the Interview
One of the most popular questions that are always asked at an interview is what your strengths and weaknesses are. Well, now you have the perfect answer. If they ask what your greatest weakness is, avoid saying kryptonite. Now you can tell them, I don't have the strongest execution skills, however, my strategic abilities are able to compensate by helping me perform better operations. Another option is to tell them you took the strengths finder test to learn a little more about your abilities.

I spoke with someone at my university's career center to get their feedback on mentioning Strengths Finder. I learned from her, that its best to mention that you took a strengths assessment to understand what you are strong in. If the employer ask whether it was the Strengths Finder test, then you can make the jump to talk about it. All and all, taking the Strengths Finder assessment is a good way of being able to articulate your strengths. Instead of just throwing out stuff you made up, you actually have real strengths you can articulate.

The strengths finder test might not be for everyone. But with the $15.00 price tag (if you buy it online), it might not be that bad of an idea to try out and learn a little more about yourself. If your an organizational leader, I would highly recommend it for board members. You will definitely gain something from it. Not everyone can become a Super Hero, but taking this test might just help you get there.