I run into people all the time who are excited to tell me they took the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment online. The accuracy of the information is “spooky good” and they find it fascinating. They proudly tell me their Top 5 “strengths” by listing their talent themes. While the purpose of the report is to give you a language to accurately describe who you are, deep down I cringe when I hear them call their talents strengths. Let me explain why.
Your “strengths” are defined by your performance. They are the specific things you do consistently and near-perfectly. A strength would be when a nurse can give an injection that feels almost painless to a patient. A strength would also be when a speaker can give a motivational speech on a hard subject and keep the audience engaged for a long period of time.
This performance is the strength and it is composed of three ingredients:
- TALENTS. Talents like Relator or Input or Competition or Restorative. These talents are words that help a person be introspective and describe why they are innately gifted in an area. They are always with a person, much like eye color. A Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment identifies the talent and gives it a name. These talents are not taught or learned. They have dwelt within a person since birth and do not change.
- SKILLS. Skill is an ability that can be taught. They might be learned on the job or in school, like the proper way to give a patient a shot. Or how to hold a flute and play an F note. They are not innate and they can be taught to anyone.
- TIME. Time is an important factor in developing a strength. It takes time, intentionality, and practice to shoot a great free throw. It takes time to learn the way to draw blood without leaving a bruise.
You can identify how a talent becomes a strength when you take the talent and combine it with skill and time. According to StrengthsFinder 2.0, it looks like this:
Investment (time spent practicing, developing your skills, and building your knowledge base)
Strength (the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance)
So when a nurse has the talent of Empathy, the skill of injection, the knowledge of the right angle, and the time and practice to be great, she can produce the strength of being able to give an injection that is practically painless to a patient. Consider the talents of Command or Communication, either of which can be combined with the knowledge of public speaking principles and time spent practicing to develop the strength of being a great motivational speaker.
The question then remains: How can YOU take your talents and your knowledge and give them time and attention to drive them into strengths? Will this combination make you successful? I will be interested to hear the next time we talk.