You Can Do the StrengthsFinder On Your Own
I've done the StrengthsFinder a couple of times now - once about ten years ago, again five years ago, and again last month. I've always found it to be an interesting and enlightening experience. One longitudinal (26 years!) research study done be Dr. Clifton found that people who know what they're good at - especially when they're young - earn more later in life, express higher levels of satisfaction with their lives, and also have better health outcomes. I constantly review my career, and ask the question, "How can I get more of what I like?" I pay attention to what I'm good at, as well. In university I started out as an Economics major - it was really interesting, but required alot of effort from me. Then I took a psychology course and found that I could get an A+ without even studying. The theories and concepts made sense to me - an example of "Rapid Learning." Very sensibly, I intuited that I had a natural area of strength, and instead of "paddling upstream" and getting that Economics major, I switched to Psychology. It was a better fit.
Unsurprisingly, when I take the StrengthsFinder my results always indicate that I'm a Learner and a Relator. Basically I attempt to absorb information from the universe, and relate that information to individuals in my life. This was something I wasn't really aware of prior to taking the StrengthsFinder. Like many people, I tend to believe that if something is easy for me, anyone could do it. Not true! Once I became aware that I have a unique set of skills and other people's brains work in different ways, I realized I had something important to offer my friends, colleagues, and clients. Despite this insight, I sometimes felt guilty about using an off-the-shelf assessment in my workshops and coaching / consulting. After all, anyone could have access to these materials simply by making a trip to the local bookstore!
What I've realized is that my strengths naturally draw me towards learning and self-discovery. I have five different StrengthsFinder books - and I've read them all, cover to cover. It didn't take me long to realize that many people purchase the book, take the assessment, read their report and say, "That was fun!" before putting them both on a shelf somewhere to collect dust. Many people don't even crack the spine on the book! So how do we change this process from some momentary fun to a meaningful experience that will guide your path in the future?
I've learned four things from delivering strengths-based workshops:
You don't need to read the book. We can talk about the research and the benefits of a strengths-based approach. Most people find this a better way of accessing the information.
Some people have difficulty with the language in the StrengthsFinder. Particularly individuals who speak English as a second language, young people and people with a more limited vocabulary. If you read and write for a living, reading and understanding the StrengthsFinder isn't an issue. For others, it's helpful to have a conversation about what everything means.
Reading the report isn't enough. You need to make sense of it, study it, put it into your own words. Make it "come alive" rather than resting on the paper. I ask a series of questions that make people really think about things said in their StrengthsFinder reports, and deepen their understanding. The StrengthsFinder actually provides a significant amount of information, and it can be difficult to absorb in a short period of time.
People are much more comfortable criticizing themselves than they are at talking about what they're good at. Well, Canadians anyway. Whether I am working with an individual who is only talking to me, or classes, I find the same thing. And it doesn't matter if they're young, mature and experienced, a front-line worker or an upper-level manager; people are just a little uncomfortable about talking about themselves and why they're so fabulous. Yet if you're going to a job interview, or working with clients, or pitching an idea, it's absolutely critical that you're able to identify and explain what you have to offer, and it doesn't need to sound like bragging!
So, you can go out and pick up a StrengthsFinder book and complete the assessment on your own. If you happen to have Achiever, Learner, Input, Strategic, or Intellection as one of your strengths, completing it individually may work very well for you. For everyone else, it's helpful to have some structure and dialogue about the process. If you're not going to attend a workshop, at the very least find a coach, mentor, or buddy to go through your report with. Make the experience meaningful.