How much can psychometric testing teach you about your career?
I’m an empath. This is something I’m hyper-aware of. I am very in tune with – and affected by – the emotions and moods of those around me. What I didn’t know, though, is that this is my number-one leadership trait too – and that it’s actually a positive characteristic to possess.
How I discovered that this is my main ‘theme’, as it’s referred to, was through the CliftonStrengths® test, a psychometric assessment developed to help people discover their natural areas of motivation and talent. The test, developed in the USA and locally available via Simon and Dee Hurry (humanstrategy.co.za), measures an individual’s unique ranking of 34 Signature themes. Each theme represents a core motivational drive and associated area of natural talent.
‘Theoretically, no two people have the same rank order for all 34 themes, which is what generates our uniqueness, as it is the interrelationship between each of the Signature themes and the importance we naturally attach to each of them that gives rise to a person’s areas of talent and behaviour,’ says Dee.
Consisting of around 180 questions, the assessment asks you to respond to hypothetical situations with ‘strongly describes me’, ‘describes me’ and ‘neutral’. For example, one of the questions runs: ‘I am good at figuring out how people who are very different can work together’ versus ‘I have a gift for treating different people equally’. You select the answer that best describes you and the extremity to which it does so.
‘StrengthsFinder is an extremely accurate and accessible tool to generate detailed knowledge of who you are and why you do what you do. It provides affirming insight into a person’s core nature,’ explains Dee. ‘It’s ideal for anyone searching for insight into what they should be doing with their lives, how to become more productive, or for understanding how to relate to people better.’
With close to 18.5 million people globally having taken the assessment to date, it seems that knowing yourself better is widely believed to be the key to handling situations more effectively, both professionally and personally.
Following the online assessment, I scheduled a one-on-one session with Dee to run through my top five ‘core’ strengths, and to discuss what this means for me and how it can assist me in my day-to-day life.
The 34 Signature themes all fall within four categories: Influencing (which is about how one moves others and creates action), Executing (processes and ‘getting the job done’), Strategic Thinking (about the ‘why and how’ one processes information to make decisions), and Relationship Building (how we form connections with people). Four of my top five Signature themes fall into ‘Relationship Building’, with one in the ‘Executing’ quadrant.
When I learnt that ‘Empathy’ was my number-one trait, the first thing I blurted out to Dee was ‘Is that a bad thing?’
‘What would make you think that?’ she asked.
The irony was that my very question cemented the fact that the assessment was spot on. As an empath and a relationship builder, I was concerned that perhaps this was a weak trait to possess. I was hyper-aware that I was being ‘analysed’ (to a certain degree) and felt like I had failed the ‘test’.
The truth is actually the contrary. According to Dee, empaths (and relationship builders as a whole) are often overlooked in a team, but are imperative as they are the ‘glue’ that holds employees together.
‘The thing to remember is that everyone possesses all 34 themes, it’s just the intensity of each that varies, which is what defines your key strengths. The key point here is that you are who you are, it’s what you try to do with it, how you apply and master who you are, that determines our success.’
So how can individuals use the results to better themselves in the workplace (and at home)? ‘The tool itself and associated reports provide insight. The next step is where I come in,’ says Dee. ‘What
I do is help people apply their results to their given context. My clients range from professionals wanting a greater understanding of who they are and how they “work” in order to grow their achievements and maximise their potential, to teenagers looking for insight into what they should be studying, and couples wanting to understand each other better. I take an individual journey with each client. The agenda or outcome is largely driven by the client’s needs. Essentially we get there when we get there.’
Following my consultation with Dee, I took a few days to process the insights I was given and I was actually left feeling better about myself, confident in my top themes and validated. It’s not about pointing out your weaknesses, but rather identifying your strengths, and using them to better the way you work and interact with others. And that’s really improved my outlook. My next session with Dee is pending – and I can’t wait to find out more about how I can use these findings to sharpen my skills, understand my leadership style, and apply the findings in a tangible way. mc
‘NO TWO PEOPLE HAVE THE SAME RANK ORDER FOR ALL 34 THEMES, WHICH IS WHAT GENERATES OUR UNIQUENESS’