At work, the BigWigs paid for a bunch of employees, including myself, to take the Gallup StrengthsFinder test. This test gives the taker a series of choices between two things that aren't exactly opposites, and you have to select which one you identify closer with. In the end, the test tells you which of 34 possible strengths are your top 5.
I enjoy taking personality tests for fun, but the way that the aforementioned BigWigs were attaching tremendous levels of importance to the results of the test made me a bit weary. Personality tests can often have a horoscope vibe, where they all say something so nice about the taker that everyone who reads it says "yep, that's me!".
So before the test, I took a look at the 34 possible strengths that the test would identify. I figured they'd all be things I liked, so that when the top 5 were output, the taker would like the results. To my surprise, there were a number of strengths, about 10 of the 34, that I would have been downright irritated if they appeared in my top 5. To an extent that, if the exercise told me any of those 10 were strengths of mine, I'd be able to instantly disqualify the test as bunk.
So I took the test with a skeptical eye toward it, but I was actually incredibly surprised by the results. I think the test absolutely nailed me, and I'm so impressed by the accuracy of my test results that I think it's worth sharing here. These strengths are ranked from strongest to less-strong (I don't say weakest because it's only the top 5 of all 34 strengths, so all 5 are very strong).
People exceptionally talented in the Analytical theme search for reasons and causes. They have the ability to think about all the factors that might affect a situation.
I'm not sure I agree that this is my #1 strength, but it's definitely very accurate for me. I think this goes hand in hand with the fact that I love being a programmer, and I enjoy debugging code. I've never been satisfied with any explanation that something "just is" - I have to understand why something happened or I can't relax about it. It's not enough for a stressful production outage to be over, I need to get to the root cause of it. This is true even in the rare instance that there's nothing I can do about it, and thus get no value out of knowing the cause - the knowledge is the reward for me.
I have a tendency to demand people "prove it" when making claims, even believable ones. Similarly, I expect other people to hold me to the same standard - I actually enjoy when I have an explanation for something and friends or co-workers are able to shoot it down. I want to believe as many true things as possible, and disbelieve as many false ones.
Nothing is ever noise for me - there's always some kind of pattern that I want to find in the noise.
People exceptionally talented in the Deliberative theme are best described by the serious care they take in making decisions or choices. They anticipate obstacles.
Yep, this is absolutely me. This "strength" is so strong within me that it can often be a weakness, one that I actively try to overcome regularly - I often can get "analysis paralysis".
It takes a great deal of information gathering before I'm willing to make any big decision - I ask an annoyingly large number of questions. This is true even for day-to-day things; the number of questions I asked my realtor when buying my first house actually caused him to become so exasperated that he and I had to part ways.
When facing any decision, the first thing I want to know is what the risks are, and I try to plan for every possible outcome. If I don't feel like I understand the risks of a decision, I often cannot make one.
One of the ways I try to address the analysis paralysis weakness is by plowing forward with functional spikes and throwaway code experiments, that way I'm not just stuck reading wikipedia pages or StackOverflow posts. Experimentation is often the best way to acquire real knowledge.
People exceptionally talented in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. The process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.
Kind of surprised this one wasn't higher, though 3 out of 34 is still pretty high. I've been accused of being a "perpetual student" on more than one occasion, which is fair since I've only been able to last one year after graduating before wanting to go back to school for another degree.
I regularly take MOOC classes, attend conferences, and watch talks online. The level of excitement I felt when the company I work for announced that engineers could get free accounts on O'Reilly Safari and Pluralsight is, frankly, embarassing. I read nonfiction constantly, usually jumping between 3 or 4 books at a time, and I consider reading fiction a waste of time because I don't learn anything while reading, and that time could be better spent learning.
One of the things that Gallup says I should try to focus on as an action item as a Learner is:
Seek roles that require some form of technical competence. You will enjoy the process of acquiring and maintaining this competence.
A-yup, the fact that it's basically impossible to ever feel "caught up" in this industry is one of my favorite things about it. There's always stuff to learn, and I love mastering new skills, languages, and technologies.
People exceptionally talented in the Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.
Very accurate. One of my favorite pastimes is discussing totally unimportant nerd shit with friends for hours and hours.
I like exercising my brain muscles, solving problems, and challenging myself. When I was narrowing down college choices, eventually the deciding factor between my last two options was that I simply wanted to go to the school that I thought would be harder (the one that didn't offer me a full ride, so I'm still paying for this strength).
I've often changed my opinions on issues because I challenged myself on some of my beliefs, and tried to reason my way from first principles to a new conclusion, and found myself on the oppsosite side of an issue than my gut reaction was initially.
I don't think the test is telling me I'm "smart", which would definitely be horoscope territory. But I think you can be dumb and still really enjoy thinking, so I think this description is still fair.
People exceptionally talented in the Restorative theme are adept at dealing with problems. They are good at figuring out what is wrong and resolving it.
I think this is, in a lot of ways, a natural result of some of the other strengths. As I said before, I love debugging and solving problems. I have a co-worker who is fond of saying that he wouldn't want to be a murderer if I was the detective assigned to the case.
Some of my "action items" for this strength are particularly entertaining to me.
Seek roles in which you are paid to solve problems. You might particularly enjoy roles in medicine, consulting, computer programming, or customer service, in which your success depends on your ability to restore and resolve.
After taking a class with the guy at work is so gung-ho for this test, he released my full ranking of all 34 strengths. This means I am able to see what my bottom 5 strengths (weaknesses) are.
When I saw my bottom 5 weaknesses, I was very happy to discover that they came out of that pool of 10 or so strengths where I'd have dismissed the entire test if it had told me I was strong with one of them.
So here they are, in reverse order, meaning starting with my biggest weakness.
The name of this strength fooled me at first, I was extremely annoyed the test said I shouldn't be a Developer. But in fact, this is the description:
People who are especially talented in the Developer theme recognize and cultivate the potential in others. They spot the signs of each small improvement and derive satisfaction from these improvements.
Oh, yeah, that's me, fine. Really not big on cultivating the potential in others. I won't try to beat someone else down or something, but I'm much more interested in cultivating the potential in myself than some other bozo. Executive material I am not.
People who are especially talented in the Positivity theme have an enthusiasm that is contagious. They are upbeat and can get others excited about what they are going to do.
Hah, yep. Not me. I'm almost bummed that "Negativity" isn't one of the 34 strengths - I guess in a way the Deliberative strength is that - it's hard to be positive when your main thing trying to figure out the risks of every possible decision.
People who are especially talented in the Includer theme are accepting of others. They show awareness of those who feel left out, and make an effort to include them.
Guilty as charged. I don't exclude people, but I definitely don't go out of my way to include anyone. I treat everyone pretty much the same ('Consistency' is my #8) and don't go out of my way to give anyone special treatment.
People who are especially talented in the Woo theme love the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over. They derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection with another person.
How is this not my bottom one? I'd be downright offended if this test told me I was good at this. The notion of "winning people over" is about as far from me as you could get.
People who are especially talented in the Empathy theme can sense the feelings of other people by imagining themselves in others’ lives or others’ situations.
Alright Gallup, I get it. I'm misanthropic as hell. In my defense, I think I'm more personable and enjoyable to be around than a lot of engineers I've met.
I really liked this test, and I think it definitely nailed me. Basically the test tells me that I'm doing exactly what I ought to be doing in terms of career choices, which is nice.
The book that surrounds this test (and the BigWigs who introduced it at work) put a lot of stock into these results. We're actually supposed to include our Top 5 in our e-mail signatures, and everyone is supposed to cater how they interact with people to the recipient's strengths. I'm not entirely sure how I would do such a thing, like what would it mean if I was talking to someone who's really good at Empathy? Should I talk not about the facts of a task, but of how it makes me feel so they empathize? Weird, pass.
One of the things the book and surrounding material pushes though, is playing to your strengths rather than trying to cover your weaknesses. This advice makes sense to me - essentially you want to emphasize the areas where you're strongest, so I should embrace the fact that I'm an analytical, deliberative, learning, thinking problem-solver and try to make sure that, in my day-to-day work, I'm giving those strengths a chance to shine.
There's also value in knowing your true "lesser strengths", like the things I got ranked #6-15 for example. Those are truly areas where I am strong, but could be stronger, and it's worth investing in improvement. My bottom 5, on the other hand, are probably permanently out of reach, so there's no point in putting myself into a situation where I need to improve my Woo skills, as an example.
My #6-15 strengths are:
- Futuristic (inspired by the future and what could be)
- Relator (enjoy close relationships with others)
- Consistency (treat people the same)
- Input (like to collect and archive information)
- Strategic (create alternative ways to succeed)
- Focus (follow through and stay on track)
- Achiever (hard worker, likes staying busy)
- Command (take control of a situation and make decisions)
- Responsibility (take ownership of what you say you'll do)
- Discipline (enjoy routine and structure)
I think this assessment is very fair as well. All ten of those things are things I'm good at, but I could improve, and I definitely understand why they'd be ranked lower than my more-dominant top 5 strengths. These are all things that there's value in working on, whereas my bottom 5 are basically a lost cause, so it's an inefficient use of my time and energy to really focus on them. It'd be better to focus on my top strengths, and improve my almost-as-strong strengths.
Some co-workers who took this test disagreed with the results so strongly that they took it multiple times until they got different results. That makes it even harder to want to actually cater my interactions with people to their strengths. But for me, I think this test absolutely got my number and I think it's worth doing. The book that goes with this test, Strengths Based Leadership, costs less than $20 and comes with an access code to take the test. I've only skimmed the book so I can't speak to it's quality, but I definitely recommend taking the test.