The Clifton StrengthsFinder is a personal assessment that is soaring in popularity in both the private and professional world. With its rise in recognition, more and more people are realizing the benefits of knowing their strengths.

(Chart from Strengths Based Leadership)

Unfortunately, this also means many leaders, managers and employees have just enough knowledge to be dangerous.

Over the years and through many conversations—some in which I participated, others I just overheard—I have picked up on themes and variations of common misconceptions. Completing the assessment and knowing your Top 5 themes or someone else’s will only get you so far.

Don’t limit yourself when you’re so close to throwing open the doors of success for your team! Be sure you know the truth behind these common misconceptions about your StrengthsFinder strengths.

1. StrengthsFinder Measures Your Strengths

No. StrengthsFinder measures talents. TalentFinder would be a more accurate name for the assessment. However, the Gallup organization decided on StrengthsFinder to communicate the ultimate goal of completing the assessment—the development of talents into strengths.

Many hiring managers miss this. StrengthsFinder is not the final word; it is the first step. Once you know a team member’s Top 5 themes, you can position them in such a way that they can cultivate and leverage their strengths in the workplace.

2. Talents, Themes and Strengths Are Synonyms

Nope. Each of these terms makes up the foundational vocabulary of StrengthsFinder. According to Gallup, a talent is a natural way of thinking, feeling or behaving. Themes are simply the official and unique name of each talent as chosen by Gallup to provide a common language for us all to use. A strength is the ability to apply a talent in such a way that consistently provides near-perfect performance.

So when you discover a team member’s Top 5 themes, know that some of the natural abilities it uncovers may still need to be further developed in order for that person to perform strongly in their role.

3. My Top 5 Are Strengths

Wrong again. Your Top 5 are themes. They’re likely a mixed bag. Some are talents, some strengths. They are all “tools” in your “toolbox,” but the question is: are you a novice or a master craftsman with each? Often, talents are unintentionally used, frequently in a way that only benefits ourselves.

Strengths, however, are powerful tools that are used intentionally and precisely, helping the team at your workplace accomplish the company’s mission. The difference is investment—skills, knowledge, and practice mixed in with the talent. This has a multiplying effect on the talent, turning it into a powerful strength.

4. Knowing My Top 5 Is Enough

While understanding your own strengths or those of your employees can be quite helpful, there is more to understand about what motivates workplace performance, interactions and engagement. Knowing a person’s strengths is only the beginning.

Managers also need to understand a candidate or employee’s:

  • Personality
  • Interests
  • Behavior Patterns
  • Skill/Experience

These important factors all play a part in person’s successes or failures in the workplace.

People are complicated. The more we can understand about ourselves and each other in the workplace, the more effective we can be.

Understanding the Big Picture

Knowing multiple dimensions of a person, rather than potential strengths alone, is vital if you want to manage them well. You need three factors to paint a complete picture:
  • Personality - why people do what they do
  • Behavior - how they do it
  • Motivators - which kind of work they find most engaging.

Just knowing strengths doesn’t clarify how to train an employee, incentivize their behavior or minimize burnout and stress. And since very few us work in complete isolation, understanding ourselves and our employees at a more complex level enables us to communicate and work effectively together.

If you want to dive deeper into understanding your employees' personality, motivators and behaviors, learn about an innovative assessment called the MAP.