Discovering and Utilising Your Strengths


When you have felt your best how did you know? Often you will find you have been playing to your strengths. Are you aware of these so you can leverage them more often?

  1. Love of learning
  2. Zest, enthusiasm and energy
  3. Hope, optimism and future-mindedness
  4. Gratitude
  5. Curiosity and interest in the world

When these came up as my top five strengths in the VIA Survey of Character strengths I completed recently as part of a career coaching session I was intrigued. Although I knew I loved learning I did not ever think of this as a character strength, simply something I enjoyed.

If you read my last updated CV my strengths listed include drive and ambition, strong relationship skills, adaptability, passion and responsiveness. None of the strengths listed above which I would definitely now integrate.

So what is a strength in this context? I like this simple definition by the Oxford Dictionary ‘A good or beneficial quality or attribute of a person or thing’.  In this lens I can definitely see how gratitude is a key strength I can leverage. For me when I practice gratitude daily I feel thankful, present and find myself a better listener and am more empathetic.

So after completing the VIA Survey for Character Strengths (you can take the survey too for free here) which measures 24 character strengths I became interested in exploring more….

Very timely a friend started working at Gallup who are known as the world leaders in finding peoples strengths through their Clifton StrengthsFinder. More than 11 million people worldwide have now been through the StrengthsFinder. You used to be only able to get the access code in Gallup books such as Strengths Finder 2.0  by Tom Rath. Now you can buy the access code online making it more accessible and I hear China is a fast developing market as they become eager to discover and capitalise on their strengths in the Asian Century.

When I went through the Clifton StrengthsFinder my top five strengths were identified as:

  • Maximizer: People who are especially talented in the Maximizer theme focus on strengths as a way to stimulate personal and group excellence. They seek to transform something strong into something superb.
  • Strategic: People who are especially talented in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.
  • Activator: People who are especially talented in the Activator theme can make things happen by turning thoughts into action. They are often impatient.
  • Ideation: People who are especially talented in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.
  • Command: People who are especially talented in the Command theme have presence. They can take control of a situation and make decisions.

Interestingly there is only a 1 in 34 million chance that someone has the same top 5 strengths in your order. This makes the approach very unique, different to personality profiling tools where you’re often grouped into a box.

When I looked deeper into my Gallup report containing 34 themes I saw synergies with the VIA Character Strengths results, for instance learner appears as #6 which is obviously significant for me. I discovered my strengths predominantly fit into the ‘Influencing’ and ‘Strategic Thinking’ Domains. The other two domains are ‘Executing’ and ‘Relationship Building’. An insight was a good partnership for me would be with a relator. I had to laugh as my husband Owain did the StrengthsFinder too and this was his number 1 strength-they say opposites attract!

For workplace teams it is useful to have a spread across all the domains. Gallup’s work with Executive Teams shows individuals are often strong in the ‘Executing’ domain based on their route to the top through technical expertise. It’s good to have relationship building peers to foster others and delegate. If you’re interested in reading more in the area of strengths and leadership here’s a link to a Gallup article:

7 Reasons to Lead with Strengths.

Some top takeaways from a debrief with a Gallup consultant:

  • ‘Command’ is the lowest ranked top strength globally and ‘Achiever’ is the top ranked.
  • An overused strength can become a pitfall, be mindful of this
  • Your talents can be quite raw at the beginning and mature with age
  • There are gender differences in top strengths with women falling more into the ‘Relationship Building’ and men into the ‘Strategic Thinking’ Domain
  • Strengths change throughout different life periods, although it is common for your top ten to stay pretty solid
  • Your bottom ranked strengths are not a weakness, they are just not dominant for you

So what does this mean practically? In the workplace my leader now knows that love of learning is a key strength and great area of importance for me. This is a strength for him too which helps him appreciate it. He knows that taking time to attend events, conferences and read is a great motivator for me to get the most out of me in the workplace.

In terms of curiosity and ideation it is important for me to be able to ask questions and have quiet time to think of ideas and then have forums to bounce them off others. I have been supported to have access to a coach which is a wonderful way to create space for ideation and then a mentor to bounce ideas off with someone.

My activator strength means I need to have authority to implement thoughts into action. This is possible in an SME like IECL where we have an empowered culture. I don’t think I’d suit an environment where there was lots of red tape and bureaucracy and I couldn’t see the result of my thoughts. Discovering my strengths has helped me understand this.

So what does this mean for you? Are you aware of your strengths? If so are you able to capitalise and integrate them into your life every day? What would this mean for you and others around you if you could? A world of possibility!

6 Comments on “Discovering and Utilising Your Strengths”

  1. Hi Dani. The strengths work is wonderful and has so many applications in life. Even in troubled times, if we call on our strenghts we find inspiration for how to manage those situations. I keep my VIA close by for guidance because the VIA strengths are so closely related to virtues and values. How can I live my values today? When we stray from our values we lead an empty life. I first took the VIA in 2004 and retake every now and then. I look at more than the top 5 and see a recurrence of strengths each time I retake the test. There is a limitation in looking at only the top 5. It’s better to consider all 24 when considering how to approach a task, objective, goal, relationship. NB, I’m not that fond of StengthsFinder but everyone I know who has taken it enjoys it. I prefer Realise2 … from the very wonderful UK ;).
    Great article, Dani, I enjoyed reading it on this lovely summer evening. Amanda

    • Hi Amanda, thank you for your comment. I was thinking of you and your passion for strengths when writing this post! Great to hear you keep your VIA close by for guidance and love the reflective question ‘How can I live my values today?’ Haven’t heard of Realise2 which I will google. Speak soon! Dani

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