As of today, over 18 Million people have taken the StrengthsFinder assessment (18,107,618 to be exact). Many of the world’s leading businesses and non-profits have adopted the StrengthsFinder language to help them see what is right about every person as well as help teams work together more effectively.
Because the StrengthsFinder assessment is only $18.00, many people take it, read the book, and learn about their strengths. Some even use it on their teams or with their spouse…without knowing the what the results mean and/or understanding best practices for application.
Here are three of the top ways I see people misuse the StrengthsFinder:
Number One – The Myth of Strength
Many people receive their Top Five Themes and believe the themes are already areas of strength. They certainly could be, but there is more to a strength than it just showing up in the results. Themes become strengths when they are: life-giving to self and others, generative for all, studied with self-awareness, and practiced regularly.
Just because a person has the theme of Woo does not mean that they are using this in a life-giving way. It could be showing up in ways which do not serve others and, ultimately, hurts relationships. A person who has Woo as a theme has the capacity for it to become a true strength, but it does not immediately identify it as such. A person may need development, self-awareness, understanding, and feedback in order for this powerful theme to become a strength.
Number Two – Using Strengths to Exclude
The StrengthsFinder tool and language were developed to help us see what is right with ourselves and the world around us. But when we use the theme names to pigeon-hole, put down, and exclude others we are missing the point.
For example, if we see that person has no strengths in the relating domain, we should never lead someone to believe that they are inept at relationships or don’t connect well with people. Everyone uses their strengths to get work done, process information, influence others and relate to their world. We must learn the skill of listening for how people perform in these four domains, while at the same time calling out the unique strengths which help people perform at their highest capacities.
Number Three – Ignoring Context and Theme Pairings
We all exist in a context or story which draw out different expressions and pairings of strength. Defining others based on a face-value understanding of the theme definitions could cause more harm than good. We need to understand how a person’s strengths come to light based on context and how their strengths work together as a whole.
An example of this misapplication would be saying something like this, “You are really good with people, so we need you to step off of the executive team because you don’t have thinking or influencing strengths.” While it may be true that person doesn’t have themes in the Thinking or Influencing domains of strength, it does not mean that they don’t use other pairs of strength together to Influence and Think in highly effective ways. It’s critical to understand how context impacts strength and how Strengths work together to do effective work.
I recently wrote an article about the difference between information and transformation. Each of these three misapplications is rooted in using the StrengthsFinder assessment to gain information…but not investing the effort into lasting personal and cultural transformation. I specialize in helping both individuals and teams experience lasting transformation using the StrengthsFinder as a framework and I would love to help you discover what is right about yourself and your team.