“When we studied them, excellent performers were rarely well rounded. On the contrary, they were sharp.” — Donald O. Clifton
I like learning the language around a given topic to build precision and depth.
When you have a language for something, it helps you to think, organize, and share knowledge more effectively.
A strength, simply put, is something you do extremely well, consistently, and builds on your natural patterns for thinking, feeling, or doing.
The 34 themes of strengths listed below represent an attempt to create a common language for strengths and talents.
To find, study, and explore your strengths, you should know the language of strengths.
Strengths are a Language for Talent
The power of the 34 themes of strengths is that they represent recurring patterns from talent-based interviews.
They give you a lens to see your own strengths and the strengths of others using very specific names (such as positivity, empathy, harmony … etc.).
You will be more effective at developing your own strengths or the strengths of your kids, or teams, or friends.
In Strengths Quest Discover And Develop Your Strengths In Academics, Career, And Beyond, Donald O. Clifton and Edward Anderson share a language for strengths, talents, and abilities.
Key Strengths Insights
Here are some of the key concepts to keep in mind when you are studying strengths:
- Strengths are the key to success. Your ability to know, understand and develop your talents influences your success in school, career, and life. To put it another way, your strengths are your edge.
- Talent. According to Clifton and Anderson, a talent is a naturally recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behavior that can be productively applied.
- Ability. According to Clifton and Anderson, ability is “what a person can specifically do.”
- Strength. According to Clifton and Anderson, a strength is “the ability to provide consistent, near-perfect performance in a given activity.” In other words, it’s your ability to perform a given function extremely well. You start with dominant themes of talent and then you refine them into strengths through knowledge, skills and experience.
34 Themes of Strengths and Talent
The 34 themes of talent are organized into 4 quadrants: relating, impacting, striving, and thinking.
- In Quadrant 1, Relating, the themes are interpersonal about bonding and connecting.
- In Quadrant II, Impacting, the themes are interpersonal about your impact and influence on others.
- In Quadrant III, Striving, the themes are about motivation and energy.
- In quadrant IV, Thinking, the themes are about information and perception.
34 Strengths Explained
Here are summaries of the 34 signature themes of strength based on Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton in the book, Now, Discover Your Strengths :
|Achiever||A relentless need for achievement.|
|Activator||“When can we start?” is a recurring question in your life.|
|Adaptability||You live in the moment.|
|Analytical||“Prove it. Show me why what you are claiming is true.”|
|Arranger||You are a conductor.|
|Belief||You have certain core values that are enduring.|
|Command||You take charge.|
|Communication||You like to explain, to describe, to host, to speak in public, or to write.|
|Competition||You have a need to outperform your peers.|
|Connectedness||You know that we are all connected.|
|Context||You look back to understand the present.|
|Deliberative||You identify, assess, and reduce risk.|
|Developer||You see the potential in others.|
|Discipline||Your world needs to be ordered and planned.|
|Empathy||You can sense the emotions of those around you.|
|Fairness||Balance is important to you.|
|Focus||Your goals are your compass.|
|Futuristic||“Wouldn’t it be great if …” The future fascinates you.|
|Harmony||You look for areas of agreement.|
|Ideation||You are fascinated by ideas.|
|Inclusiveness||“Stretch the circle wider.” You can to include people and make them feel like part of the group.|
|Individualization||You’re intrigued by the unique qualities of each person.|
|Input||You collection information – words, facts, books and quotations.|
|Intellection||You like to think. You like mental activity.|
|Learner||You love to learn.|
|Maximizer||Excellence, not average, is your measure.|
|Positivity||You are generous with praise, quick with smile, and always on the look out for the positive in the situation.|
|Relater||You derive a great deal of pleasure and strength from being around your close friends.|
|Responsibility||You take psychological ownership for anything you commit to, and you feel emotionally bound to follow it through to completion.|
|Restorative||You love to solve problems.|
|Self-assurance||You have faith in your strengths.|
|Significance||You want to be very significant in the eyes of other people.|
|Strategic||You create alternative ways to sort through the clutter and find the best route.|
|Woo||You win others over.|
Finding Your Top Five Strengths
There are 33 million different combinations of Signature Themes.
One of the recommended practices in the strengths literature is to find your top five strengths. If you can identify your top five themes, you can use the information to start cultivating your strengths for personal excellence and stop focusing on weaknesses.
Your top five Signature Themes is your unique combination.
You can use the Clifton StrengthsFinder to identify your top five strengths. (Note that you’ll need an access code from one of Gallup’s books, such as Strengths Finder 2.0 or Now, Discover Your Strengths.)
If you don’t easily identify your strengths yourself, ask your friends who know you best, what they might think your top five are. Compare with what you think your top five are.
Also, consider taking the test and see what the Clifton StrengthsFinder thinks your top five are.
Remember, this exercise isn’t about identifying what you want them to be — it’s about identifying where you currently are.
Additional Resources for Strengths Insights
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Photo by Klearchos Kapoutsis.