My partner Julia and I both have day jobs in Corporate America. And we likely always will. There’s quite a few reasons why this is, but the one I’d like to focus on today is growth and development. Last year I was fortunate enough to be offered a workshop on CliftonStrengths. The assessment, as well as the on-going coaching, has allowed me to achieve my professional goals in my main gig as well as my side gig.
What is CliftonStrengths?
Created by Gallup, CliftonStrengths is an online assessment that helps individuals uncover their areas of highest potential, focusing on what they naturally do best and examining what makes them exceptional. There are a total of 34 “themes” which explain your “Talent DNA.” What really knocks my socks off is the fact that your assessment report is completely unique, based on your own specific ordering of all 34 themes. Most people focus on their Top Five, and I think this makes sense. The chance any other person has the same group of strengths in their Top Five is about 1:275,000… If you attempted to find someone with the exact same Top Five themes, in the same exact order as you, the odds are 1:33.4 million!
But enough academics. I’d love to dive into my own Top Five strengths, as they were presented to me not only in my assessment report, but also through the coaching session that I had afterwards. I have two motives behind giving you a closer look at my own Top Five:
- I believe that we learn by showing, not telling. But giving you a clear and concrete example of my Top Five, you’ll start to understand the art of the possible. You’ll start to imagine what your own strengths’ assessment might look like.
- I hope that in showing you my Top Five strengths, it will give you the confidence that I’ve chosen the right career path. Not only in my day job as a professional negotiator, but as a serial entrepreneur and woman who helps other women start, grow, and “kick some glass” in their own pursuits as a consultant!
Stephanie’s Top 5
#1 Ideation (Strategic Thinking)
Generic Description: I am fascinated by ideas. I am able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.
Why my “Ideation” is unique (based on the specific sequence of the 34 themes):
|Instinctively, I contribute many innovative ideas to the group during brainstorming sessions. I tend to be highly imaginative when proposals are fully heard and any criticism is reserved for a later time.||This is a strength that I use when working with Smashe Consulting clients.|
|I marvel whenever I create a link between one thought or object or another. I develop entirely new concepts, theories, innovations, designs, plots, conclusions, proposals, and more. With each mental leap, I experience feelings of happiness, pleasure, and success.||This is a strength I use when starting new businesses / entrepreneurship.|
|I derive great pleasure from making discoveries and designing innovations. I really enjoy doing things no one has ever considered.||This is a strength I used when earning 2 U.S. Patents for scientific innovations.|
Why I Succeed Using “Ideation”
- I am fascinated by ideas. Because I enjoy looking at the world from different perspectives and am always searching for connections, I am a powerful and creative brainstorming partner.
- This is a strength I use with our Smashe Consulting clients, often during the early stages of business development (e.g. SWOT analysis, business planning and strategy, etc.)
Watch out for Blind Spots
- My limitless thoughts and ideas can sometimes overwhelm and confuse people. I should refine my ideas and share only the best so that others won’t reject them simply because they cannot follow my abstract thinking.
- I might struggle to follow through on ideas that I generate. I should collaborate with someone who can help me turn my best ideas into real results.
- This is one of the main reasons why I chose to collaborate with Julia as my Smashe business partner! I recognized this blind spot and solved for it!
#2 Maximizer (Influencing)
Generic Description: I focus on strengths as a way to stimulate personal and group excellence. I seek to transform something strong into something superb.
Why my “Maximizer” is unique:
|I intentionally become personally acquainted with people. I discover each person’s unique qualities, interests, or strengths. I can position a person for success once I know what drives her to produce outstanding results. I realize that the techniques I use with one person are unlikely to inspire everyone.||This is a strength that I use when working with Smashe Consulting clients.|
|I prefer to rely on specialists for guidance when I am seeking solutions or searching for answers. My weaknesses are irrelevant. I find partners, devise support systems, or use one of my stronger themes to compensate for the weaker ones.||This is a strength I use both in my day job in contracts negotiation, as well as in working with Smashe Consulting clients. In my 9-5, I pull in the right matrix partners who are experts in their field… I’m not a lawyer, but I know a good one to use. I’m not a data privacy expert, but I’ve got someone to call. Similarly, Julia and I know when we need to work directly with a Smashe client, or when it’s best to rely on a trusted partner to drive success. We’re not good at everything, and we don’t want to be good at everything. We want to truly focus on our strengths.|
Why I Succeed Using “Maximizer”
- I focus on quality, and I prefer working with and for the best. By seeing what each person naturally does best and empowering them to do it, I make individuals, teams and groups better.
- This strength goes hand-in-hand with my first strength, “Ideation.” I naturally find connections between different ideas and people, allowing me to broker strategic partnerships and working relationships between seemingly different people with complementary skillsets.
Watch out for Blind Spots
- I might be disappointed when a project or initiative falls short of my definition of excellence. My CliftonStrengths assessment urges me to not get discouraged when I have to sign off on something that is acceptable, but perhaps not ideal in my eyes.
#3 Futuristic (Strategic Thinking)
Generic Description: I am inspired by the future and what could be. I energize others with my visions of the future.
Why my “Futuristic” is unique:
|I feel wonderful when people value my innovative and original ideas. I am likely to help others envision what can be accomplished in the coming months, years, or decades. I am filled with hope every time I think about the good things I (we) can accomplish.||This is a strength that I use when working with Smashe Consulting clients.|
|I invest considerable time creating a future of my own choosing. I frequently share my ideas about what will be possible, capturing people’s attention whenever I describe in vivid detail what I imagine. I take charge of my own future, determined to shape it as I wish. I spend a lot of time thinking about my goals, and creating the experiences I desire.||I’ve been obsessed with the idea of “lifestyle design” ever since reading the 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. I realized that my life is 100% in my control, and the way I spend my hours, and the people I spend it with, are critical decisions. I have taken very deliberate efforts when starting my own companies, designing them to scale for growth with passive income streams and automation techniques, which allows me to focus on many pursuits at once. I also use my “Futuristic” lifestyle design theme to help Smashe clients grow similar companies so that they can focus their time and energy on the things they want, forgetting the rest.|
|I feel an irresistible urge to introduce myself to outsiders and start talking with them. Why? I welcome the chance to tell one more person what I dream of accomplishing.||This has served me well with meeting and working with new Smashe Consulting clients.|
Why I Succeed Using “Futuristic”
- I am a visionary. My powerful anticipation and detailed visualization of a better future can turn aspirations into reality. My vision of tomorrow inspires and pushes others to new heights.
- This strength has continuously helped me in all areas of my life. Whether it’s starting a new entrepreneurial venture with a mind for growth, or helping my Smashe clients, this forward-looking view to life has served me well.
Watch out for Blind Spots
- I must make sure I am not overlooking opportunities to experience and appreciate where I am now. I need to enjoy the present moment. In addition, some people may dismiss my vision because they can’t see the future the way I do. I must address real issues today in order to get a better tomorrow.
#4 Competition (Influencing)
Generic Description: I measure my progress against the performance of others. I strive to win first place and revel in contests.
Why my “Competition” is unique:
|Each victory motivates me to perform even better in the future.||This ties into my 3rd strength (Futuristic!) nicely! I love that each successful business venture positions me to be successful in future ventures. Whether they are my own companies, or the companies of my Smashe clients. Every success lends itself to the next success, as I gain insights and learn from each experience.|
|I am willing to take chances. I frequently venture into unknown territory when that can make the difference between capturing first place or finishing in second or third.||The world of entrepreneurship is NOT for the faint of heart. I’ve taken chances, time and time again, and it’s paid off. Similarly, I’ve taken chances in Corporate America, partially from my confidence in myself and my own abilities, but also because having many side ventures gives me the security to do something risky.|
|I prefer to engage in activities that are evaluated objectively with scores, ratings, or ranking.||This pretty much sums up why I got a physics degree… there’s a right answer, and there’s a wrong answer, and that is hugely appealing to me!|
|Instinctively, I rely on my sophisticated vocabulary to outthink people. Whether speaking or writing, I interject technical or subject-specific terms to confront resistance head on or force issues into the open. This authoritarian stance puts people on notice that I am clever. At this point, individuals’ own confidence levels begin to drop. My ease with language and artful tactics signal that I am in charge.||This description, which I’ll admit is a bit in-your-face and boastful, describes my role as a professional strategic negotiator to a T. I couldn’t have summed it up better myself.|
Why I Succeed Using “Competition”
- I motivate myself and others to a higher standard of performance. I can raise a group’s achievement level by creating a culture of winning and aspiring to be the best.
- This strength ties in nicely with my “Maximizer” theme. It has served me well as a consultant working with Smashe clients.
Watch out for Blind Spots
- I must be careful not to let my competitive spirit get in the way of my relationships. Not everyone has my drive to win, and constantly comparing my performance to theirs might offend them or hurt their feelings.
- Winning at all costs isn’t winning; it’s self-defeating. I must make sure I maintain my principles when I push myself toward ultimate victory.
#5 Activator (Influencing)
Generic Description: I can make things happen by turning thoughts into action. I want to do things now, rather than simply talk about them.
Why my “Activator” is unique:
|I energize others so they feel enthusiastic about a position I have taken, or an innovative idea I have proposed. As soon as I resolve to do something, I typically announce, “Let’s get started right away. We can do this!” Each victory motivates me to perform even better in the future.||I can’t tell you how much this resonates with me! I’ve heard it everywhere – in my day job, in any side-gig… I am FAST with a bias for action! It’s just the way I’m wired. In my exhaustive experience working with entrepreneurs, I find that their ideas get stuck, and the hardest part is in taking action. I don’t find the action part hard at all – it just comes naturally.|
|I have quick and clever thinking. I rely on facts and reason to support my ideas.||This strength has helped me as a physicist-turned-engineer relying on data-drive results. This strength has served me well as a negotiator as well, as I have to think quickly on my feet in the heat of a debate.|
|I am comfortable telling others stories about my personal habits, qualities, experiences, or background. My forthcoming nature probably enables others to share their thoughts and feelings with me.||Any stranger who has ever sat next to me on a long-haul flight will agree with this one! After all – strangers are just friends I haven’t met yet! This has served me well in my personal life – I make friends wherever I go! But it has also been a great asset in gaining new Smashe clients. I find it easy to connect with new people on a deep way, and this new connection excites me!|
Why I Succeed Using “Activator”
- I am a catalyst. I naturally know how to turn ideas into action, and I make things happen. My energy can be contagious and engaging.
- Succeeding as an Activator has helped me to help my Smashe clients time and time again. I know how to get stuff done, and I’m excited about it.
Watch out for Blind Spots
- The force of my urging people to take action might make them feel overwhelmed and pressured to act before they are comfortable. I must remember that others may not feel that same urgency, and some people will need more time to think before they act.
- I have certainly been accused of being “impatient” before. In all areas of my life, really, and I am. I need to learn to calm this part of me, and to sometimes not charge ahead and take action right away. (Hold me back! Hold me BACK!)
Where do we go from here?
I have gained some incredible insights into my psyche as well as my working style by going through not only the online CliftonStrengths assessment, but some follow-on coaching session with a certified coach. From these sessions, I was able to (1) focus on my strengths (2) find supplemental tools or people to fill in the gaps where I may be less strong and (3) build strong teams of contributors with complementary skillsets to achieve our goals. As I was told by my coach on the eve of a major hiring decision… “You aren’t trying to build a team of ‘Stephanies’. You don’t need everyone to have the same level of energy that you have, and not everyone needs to be as quick-paced or big-pictured. Hire some slower, more deliberate people who love to get into the details, so that you don’t have to.” This is quite possibly the most impactful career advice that I’ve received as a people leader. Moreover, when I first came up with the idea for Smashe, I knew the characteristics I wanted in a partner, before I knew who that partner should be. I worked backwards – I knew she had to be detailed, deliberate, and creative. I knew she’d have to take my spattered ideas and distill them into an eloquent, well-packed output. Julia is my perfect complement, and I look forward to diving into her CliftonStrengths early in 2021.
For now, I’d encourage you to go online to https://www.gallup.com/cliftonstrengths/en/253868/popular-cliftonstrengths-assessment-products.aspx and take your assessment. Everything is paid right through this site – Smashe does not profit from this at all. You can either take a shorter, less expensive assessment – $19.99 – to get your Top 5 results (which to be perfectly honest, I think are probably sufficient to start!) or you can take the longer, more expensive assessment – $49.99 – to get your full sequence of all 34 themes. But – once you have taken this assessment and have your report, we’d LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU! We would encourage you to engage with our CliftonStrengths certified coach to help in your career development.
Contact us to chat about how we can help you achieve your own success.
Note: much of the language used in the report summary were taken from Stephanie’s personal assessment, so are sourced from CliftonStrengths directly.