Blog post -
What I learned from reviewing 1,000 Gallup CliftonStrengths reports
A milestone reached: Since becoming a Gallup-certified CliftonStrengths coach in 2019, I have now reviewed just over 1,000 “CliftonStrengths 34” reports.
These 25-page psychometric assessments have completely transformed our media training workshops into communications coaching.
Each report reveals the individual's talent DNA – the unique personality traits which crystallise their natural ways of thinking and instinctive actions and behaviours. More than 26 million people have taken the assessment, which was previously known as Gallup StrengthsFinder.
Each report is unique to the person who completes the assessment, and requires careful reading.
But when you’ve painstakingly gone through this many reports, some patterns do emerge and you inevitably find some trends and draw some conclusions.
1. People are all different …in the same ways
The granularity of each CliftonStrengths report is startling. Virtually all clients report how disarmingly accurate their reports are.
It's impossible to tell from a CliftonStrengths report whether it belongs to a man or a woman, someone who is young or old, single or married, well-educated or poorly educated, rich or poor. You also can't tell which ethnic group they belong to. That's why I baulk when I hear tired generalisations such as "men are like this, and women are like that".
Fact: your CliftonStrengths report could just as easily be that of a 50-year-old male Manhattan attorney, a 17-year-old Japanese school girl, or a 25-year-old Syrian refugee.
No two reports are the same, but if people share certain Talent Themes they think in remarkably similar ways.
Of course, when and how people apply their Talents adds to the complexity of the individual, but I am routinely surprised how people display exactly the same differences.
2. Many people struggle with their personalities
Many clients tell me they have split personalities. Should they think this way, or that? Should they decide one way, or the other?
Both make sense to them, but they sometimes struggle which way to turn.
A look at their CliftonStrengths report soon shows why: many people have contrasting Themes. For example, they can at times be swayed by emotion, yet at other times remain purely practical. At times they make decisions based purely on facts, but at other times they also apply their intuition and decide by gut feel.
They can be instinctively distrusting, yet gregarious.
They can be thoughtful, yet act quickly.
They can be collaborative some times, yet competitive at other times.
They can be confident some times, yet self-deprecating at other times.
Fact: these contrasting mindsets are normal. There is nothing wrong with you.
Another fact: these contrasting mindsets are an asset. Contrasting Talents allow you to switch behaviours as the situation requires, while remaining in your comfort zone.
Rather than being run ragged by inexplicably changing mindsets, coaching creates clarity. You can be in charge of your thoughts, rather than at their mercy.
3. People excel when they remain in their comfort zone
There is a lot of well-meaning advice on the internet imploring readers to “get out of your comfort zone”.
This faddish nonsense is just B.S., and does more harm than good.
The American psychologist Donald O. Clifton, who devoted his life to developing his eponymous assessment, famously asked, "What would happen if we studied what was right with people versus what's wrong with people?"
So, stay in your comfort zone!
Expand it, make the most of it, take full advantage of the head start your Talents already give you by investing in skills and knowledge, so that you can play to your strengths.
Gallup’s own research has found strengths-based development leads to 7%-23% higher employee engagement, 10%-19% increased sales, 8%-18% higher performance and 14%-29% higher profit.
It’s incredibly rewarding when a speaker comes to my studio, and we unshackle them from decades worth of presenting habits and hang-ups they never thought they could shake.
4. Poor public speaking skills are predictable …and therefore solvable
A person's CliftonStrengths report gives me quite accurate insights into what their public speaking skills are like.
Of course, people are complex and there is still a lot of nuance, which is why my personal interaction with each client is still critically important.
But after reviewing 1,000 reports, I can say with some certainty whether the individual is likely to suffer stage fright and of what variety, how clear or muddled their delivery is likely to be, whether they are an engaging speaker, whether they are able to think on their feet in panel discussions, how they will respond to difficult questions in media interviews, and so on.
Once I know what their CliftonStrengths Talent Themes are, I can usually solve their communications issues in the space of a few hours.
5. Influencing Talents are comparatively rare
Gallup organises the 34 Talent Themes into four groups: Executing, Strategic Thinking, Relationship Building and Influencing Talents.
However, broadly speaking Influencing Talents don't occur as frequently as the other three.
This is revealed by the strengths grids we create for groups of clients, which generally show the same pattern: Most organisations have an abundance of people with Executing, Strategic Thinking and Relationship Building Talents in their Top 5.
In the more than 1,000 CliftonStrengths reports I have reviewed, Influencing Talents generally occur less often in the Top 5.
And it doesn't matter whether the individual works in technology, banking, logistics, publishing or pharmaceuticals, or whether they are in the business of engineering, sales, R&D, customer service, communications, or others.
But that's no great shame. People without Influencing Talents can still communicate very well.
It puts paid to the myth that "left brained" people can't present well. That's another piece of rubbish we need to discard. Labelling people does them a great disservice.
6. You don’t need Influencing Talents to present well
There are 34 Talent themes in all, and I often get asked what the “perfect profile” is for public speaking.
In short, there isn’t one.
The single biggest success factor in public speaking is not whether you have so-called influencing Talents.
The single biggest success factor is whether you best apply the person you already are.