Libraries, the universe and everything

Finding strengths
February 16, 2018, 12:04
Filed under: CPD, SLA | Tags: ,

As pre-work for our recent SLA Leadership Symposium (about which a post should follow soon…), we were asked to fill out a questionnaire for the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment.

Note to self: next time I embark upon a series of vaguely-related posts, I really should write the main one first… And yes, I did link to the Wikipedia article on StrengthsFinder – it was the first item in my search results that wasn’t basically just a sales pitch.

I am a big fan of these instruments, I find them fascinating and useful in understanding aspects of behaviour, both my own and that of others. I know there are all kinds of caveats, and that you can get different results at the same time, but I still feel they have value, particularly as a team exercise. I took the Meyers-Briggs test back in about 2010, and that provided a real moment of epiphany for me in terms of appreciating how to work effectively with different personalities and styles, so I was actually quite excited to take the Clifton assessment and see what that had to contribute.

For anyone who hasn’t taken it before, I don’t think I’m revealing any major secret if I say that the test consists of paired statements with a sliding scale of responses, and for each pair you have to say whether you’re strongly or weakly inclined towards one or the other, or neutral. I found myself marking neutral for quite a number of the pairs, but for different reasons – sometimes it was because I felt equally strongly about both of them, but often it was because I didn’t really care about either of them (there were at least as many which I did care about though!) – and I wondered whether this would have a weird influence on my results.

Happily, the instrument was clearly set up with this kind of nonsense in mind, because I absolutely recognise myself in the results it produced for me! My top 5 themes (complete with definitions from the Wikipedia page, as I don’t have my report to hand) were:

  1.  Input – one who is constantly collecting information or objects for future use
  2.  Intellection – one who enjoys thinking and thought-provoking conversation often for its own sake, and also can data compress complex concepts into simplified models
  3.  Harmony – one who seeks to avoid conflict and achieve success through consensus
  4.  Learner – one who must constantly be challenged and learning new things to feel successful
  5.  Responsibility – one who must follow through on commitments

Unsurprisingly for a room of library and information professionals, many of the other session participants shared the Input theme. We didn’t spend a huge amount of time analysing our individual results, although the trainer did talk around a few key points. He also encouraged us to see where our themes fit into the “four domains of team strength” (with apologies for poor-quality photo):

I was interested to see that three of mine fall into the strategic thinking domain, with one each in executing and relationship building (I would have expected I’d have more in executing, and fewer in strategic thinking). This places me as less strong on the influencing side of things, which I’m sad to admit is completely true, but of course the point is that it’s good to know this with a view to surrounding myself with people who can balance my areas out. I’m not sure yet precisely how or where I shall apply this awareness, but it’s good to know it’s there waiting for when I need it.

It was also fun to spend time discussing our different strengths in small groups around the room, and I came away feeling that this kind of knowledge is really useful in choosing the right people for a team – whether in the workplace, on a volunteer organization board, or really anywhere that you need to generate ideas and get something done – it seems so much easier to be effective when you have a range of strengths involved. A case in point: I used to work with someone who is a brilliant big-picture thinker but almost impossible to pin down on details. This used to drive me crazy, but of course our opposite strengths meant that the two of us did some good work together, and now I find myself missing that relationship!

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