14 Years of Finding Strengths

The first time I ever took the StrengthsFinder assessment, I was working in a high volume contact center for a Fortune 500 company. It was the second job I’d had after moving to Minnesota in 2002, so I was feeling like kind of a big shot working for a company that was five times the size of my hometown. (I don’t even know.) The requirement of answering your phone after no more than two rings has been ingrained into my soul forever and I’m not mad about it.

I really wish I had those full results. I know our managers printed out all five of them for our cubicles, but I don’t ever remember going over them or knowing why we were doing it. I only remember one of my strengths: WOO. It stands for “winning others over”. It makes sense, right? I’m in my early 20s, fresh to a new state and a new company, and really only knowing about three people. I’mma woo the hell out of some people.

In either 2012 or 2013, I took it again. In my personal life, I was well into dating the person I would eventually marry and had managed to build up a pretty incredible group of friends. I was much more comfortable in my own skin, had more confidence in myself and had a better idea of what grown up life was about. Professionally, I was in my first HR job, working as a recruiter for a small staffing agency, where I’d started back in 2008. I was working 50+ hours per week and the culture was like riding a janky wooden roller coaster that could have fallen apart at any given time. But I loved what I was doing. All of that yielded these results, with my interpretation, of course. (Now, it’s no Buzzfeed quiz that tells me what type of tropical fruit I am based on the number of Kenny G songs I can identify in the first four bars, but stick with me.)

At this point in my career/life, these were my strengths: Activator, Command, Competition, Individualization, and Learner. Based on where I was both personally and professionally, I’d say it was pretty accurate!  I had a lot of metrics to knock out of the water, lots of things were time sensitive and it was a straight-up aggressive job where if you didn’t fill a position someone else was and you had to explain why.

I had to fill jobs and I had to fill them fast. I couldn’t quite grasp when people didn’t either didn’t want to or couldn’t do the same. Part of my job was putting together the puzzle of the right candidate for the right job and the evidence to that wasn’t often paper, so I had to know people – what they’d done, how that could match up to what we needed them to do in a job, where they’re at in their head when they go work each day. A resume wasn’t enough for that job (nor is it ever really…) and that’s where all the learning came into play. I had to at least understand things like polymer engineering, three way matching in the accounting field, and how pee samples were handled in the lab from start to finish. (I even made up a song about recruiting for that last position. I wouldn’t call it one of my greatest hits.)

My strengths in 2017 switched up a bit to: Activator, Developer, Maximizer, Communication, and Harmony. My personal life included being married for almost four years and having a two year old. My professional life was much different, too. I’m in a HR position that involves a lot more than just recruiting. I’m in a leadership position. I’m working for a company whose culture is consistently amazing and led with transparency and authenticity from the top down. I feel appreciated when I come to work every day and I feel like I make an impact every single one of those days.

I do hate conflict, but I also really love a healthy debate. If I don’t agree with you, it doesn’t mean I have to be right.  It means that I want to understand better. I’m not super into the whole sitting around the campfire, holding hands while we all agree about everything. That’s boring. The communication strength is also supposed to be something where you enjoy hosting or speaking in public, and noooooooo. I like to get shit done. I set my own standards high and sometimes that’s not a good thing, because not everyone does that. And that’s okay. I’m not surprised that my activator-like tendencies have remained consistent. I feel like it’s the most accurate of all five, especially when you consider that doesn’t always mean I’ll see it through to the end once it’s up and running. Area of improvement for this HR pro. No sense in hiding that! I think being in my HR role, often as a coach or someone to offer guidance, is what brings those developer and maximizer strengths to the top of the list, too.

Sometimes (okay, all the time), I wonder if this is similar to the whole chicken and the egg thing. I feel pretty confident saying my current position in my current company, where I feel like there’s a career path in place for me, are responsible for highlighting my current strengths to the top of the list. I’m fascinated with this type of thing and want to try to remind myself to take it every few years to see where things have changed. I can’t imagine you’re born with your strengths already picked out for you. Life hands you things and you get stronger from them… or so I hear!

Do you dig these kind of things? Are your strengths so far off that they make you laugh or so dang accurate that you’re a tiny bit scared? And I’m totally cool if you think it’s a giant pile of crap, too! I mean, after all, I’m all about harmony apparently.

 

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