Addressing Reason 5: “I don’t see a need for it!”

effectiveness of cliftonstrengths tool


In my previous article, I highlighted 6 potential reasons why people find it difficult to implement CliftonStrengths in their workplace: 

  1. Alternative tools
  2. Price
  3. Ease of understanding
  4. Level of accuracy
  5. Effectiveness of tool
  6. Commitment 

This list is not exhaustive, but it aims to capture the primary and most common reasons why people may question the necessity of CliftonStrengths. 

In this short article, I’ll address the second last reason – Effectiveness.

You may also choose to revisit the main article before this, or click on any of the other 5 reasons that speak to you. 

Addressing Effectiveness

Another consideration is that CliftonStrengths, while it has its merits, might not necessarily be effective in specific contexts. 

(1) “I don’t need CliftonStrengths because the validation of each other’s strengths is already ingrained in our culture”. 

Many companies have an “appreciative” culture where colleagues point out and commend each other’s strengths and contributions, yet without the need to use a tool like CliftonStrengths. To this point, I’ll like to highlight two benefits of using CliftonStrengths for peer and work validation. 

CliftonStrengths enlightens us to unrecognised strengths 

Human beings are limited by our own lenses (aka worldview) and often affected by the “Halo effect”. We tend to overemphasise traits that are commendable, good and excellent while at the same time deprioritize traits that are ineffective, disruptive or simply just “neutral”. For example, it is human nature (or common sense) to value empathy, efficiency, deep thinking and diligence while devaluing rigidity, scepticism and impulsivity. This is where the use of CliftonStrengths brings to it another way of looking at traits. 

For instance, say you have a Colleague X who is highly competitive and driven by benchmarking. You might misjudge him as egoistic or downright ruthless. However, he actually possesses a talent called #Competition, where he achieves excellence by striving to challenge the best. 

Another example closer to heart, people often find me “stuck in the past”. I always have this nagging question “has this happened before?”, and I enjoy reading biographies, exploring traditions and reviewing archives. Peers around me would say “David, you need to know and accept that things are different now! We need to see the situation today as it is, and then move forward.”. However, I have the talent #Context, and I believe that learning from the past ensures that we don’t make the same mistake today. To me, that is the whole point of learning our histories.

Professionally, we often value tangible skills and actions such as achieving your KPIs or having the ability to socialise with a huge number of people as strengths. Yet, we all know that there are many other strengths that are intangible. The ability to build close and authentic relationships with others (#Relator, being attuned to your colleagues unique preferences (#Individualisation), being detailed and structured in your work processes (#Discipline), or having the capacity for deep and sustained introspection (#Intellection) – without CliftonStrengths, these are strengths that often get hidden behind the limelight.

In short, CliftonStrengths allow us to see the world differently and begin seeing unrecognised strengths in ourselves and others. You’ll be surprised by just how much you don’t know!

CliftonStrengths helps us see our blindspots

One of the best methods to an effective team is seeing how we can complement each other, especially by covering our blindspots. For example, #Maximizer is one of my bottom talents. This means that it is not natural to me to see the “good to great”. I see this play out the most during Advocacy Programmes, where we train student leaders to create learning products to advocate good cyber wellness practices among their peers in school. To me, I am happy whenever students gain ownership and motivation and produce a decent product. 

Contrasting this with my colleague who has #Maximizer as his top talent, he often challenges the students and demands products that are of high quality and standards. This expectation of his actually pushes students to ideate and create products that are out-of-this-world! I now know that pushing boundaries sometimes allows for the most excellent results!

While it is therefore true that we technically do not need CliftonStrengths to learn how to validate each other, I think as a society, we can do better. While it is natural or easy to praise others for a “good job well done”, it is more impactful to highlight specifically which strengths you see in action and how that strength has helped in the situation. This will transform the entire work culture from an accidental use of strengths (unconsciously) to an intentional contribution (consciously). 

(2) “My company has well-established hierarchies and structures, CliftonStrengths might not be useful”. 

While many individuals view this tool as a self-awareness one, I personally believe that CliftonStrengths is best applied to a team or community, even one with said hierarchies and structures. CliftonStrengths helps us maximise our productivity in whichever job scope we are placed in. This can be done in three ways:

  • Capitalise: When we are aware of our talents, we can utilise it to our benefits. Let us take a look at HR manager X, who has the #Arranger talent. Knowing that she has this talent, she frequently capitalises on it to schedule meetings that involve different stakeholders, and adept at delegating roles for the most productive results. In addition, she continues to use the resources provided by the CliftonStrengths tool to invest in this talent, building on her knowledge and skills. 

Talent X Investment (knowledge and skills) = Strength

  • Compensate: Even if you may not possess the “conventionally-expected” talents for the tasks, there are alternative strengths that you can leverage on to fulfil the job responsibilities. Suppose your job requires you to anticipate potential future trends in the market but you lack the #Futuristic talent, you can leverage on your #Woo talent to build connections with future thinkers during business networking events. Or suppose you need to speak publicly at work and you lack the #Communication talent, you can gain confidence to speak to a crowd using your #Analytical talent, to ensure your content is robust, accurate and substantial. This way, you can position yourself as the expert in the field and garner the audience’s interest! Finally, if your job requires pioneering projects and be at the forefront of the industry, but you lack #Activator to kickstart initiatives, you can instead use #Responsibility and leverage on this sense of psychological ownership to drive projects.
  • Collaborate: Since the full CliftonStrengths profile helps you discover your lesser talents, this allows you to invite others to work with and complement you, and you will do so confidently (“It is not because I am incompetent, but I just have other talents”) and humbly (“I have blindspots so I can’t do everything myself. I’ll need people to help me.”). For example, #Ideation is my lesser talent, I can invite my colleague high in #Ideation talent to help me brainstorm best practices and create innovative ideas. Or if my #Focus talent is my blindspot, and as a manager I need to prioritise and delegate tasks for my group. I can invite my colleague who has that talent to share with me her processes and goal-set with me to keep me on track.

(3) “CliftonStrengths opens me to the possibility of switching my career. What if this profile just shows me that I should move to another company that plays into my strengths?”  

Chances are, if you are pondering over this question, perhaps you already have a general sensing that you may not be in the right place. What CliftonStrengths does is essentially provide you with a decision making process that takes into consideration your thinking, feeling and behaviour. As a result, whether the ultimate decision is to stay or move, you know that the decision is informed, and this tool provides you with choices!

Choosing to leave your current workplace

This may be due to the simple fact that positive psychology taught you to play to your strengths at work so as to boost productivity and well-being. Furthermore, it might have saved you from long overdue bitterness and judgement towards your workplace. Instead of putting the blame “This company forgoes my strengths. They only care about pragmatism and results!”, you might now say “Perhaps the set of strengths I have are not the most relevant right now due to the nature of my work, but maybe I can be recognised and contribute better in another organisation/industry.”

For instance, suppose I have strong strategic thinking talents that will help me in research and development, and I enjoy reviewing academic literature and engaging in higher order thinking. Yet I am currently in social services, where I spent bulk of my time in building relationships (e.g., empathy, active listening, asking good questions) with clients and families and with the knowledge of my CliftonStrengths profile, I decide to leave my workplace. I know I will neither be ignorant (“Am I really leaving for the right reason? Perhaps I can’t do well because I’m incompetent, but how would I know?”) nor judgemental towards external factors beyond my control (“This company doesn’t care about what I can do best! My superiors and colleagues do not understand who I am!”).

Choosing to stay at your current workplace

Upon unpacking what your CliftonStrengths profile tells you and reading through the action items of each of your top talents, perhaps you decide to stay at your current workplace because you know that you can use other talents you may have to fulfil your job responsibilities (see above “Compensate”). Conventionally, you may think that using your #Command talent for classroom management, #Empathy to counsel others or #Deliberative to do risk assessments will be the best way forward. However, should you lack these talents, could you still do the job well? Perhaps, you may consider using your #Belief talent instead to set rules for your class, #Analytical to ask good questions for truth-seeking and provide objective analysis when counselling or #Restorative to anticipate problems for risk assessment. 

Otherwise, you might be motivated to have a review with your supervisors to adjust your job scope so that you can better contribute at work. Furthermore, since you are basing this decision on a researched and validated tool, there is added assurance for you and your supervisors that you are making an informed choice that benefits both parties.