Monday, June 15, 2009

Strengths Finder 2.0

My fascination with personality tests and profiles continues. My Strengths Finder book came from Amazon today. Jeannette (giveaway winner) posted her results today too. You can read hers here. I guess I've had achievement on the brain lately--I also recently read Outliers, which is another great look at how and why people are successful. Each Strengths Finder book comes with a unique code that allows you to access an online questionnaire--similar to the Myers-Briggs test, you choose from two options, but this one is done on a sliding scale, and you only have 20 seconds to answer each one, so you're supposed to go with your first instinct. After you take the test, you get an individualized printout of your top 5 strength "themes."

Anyway, the premise of Strengths Finder is that we do people a disservice by focusing on what we they don't do well--that finding and focusing on strengths is a better way to help people achieve what they are meant to do. It's also a way for people who are working to enjoy their work more and be more productive. For example, in the book it talks about the fact that in school, we will focus all a student's attention on a failing grade, rather than centering their focus on the areas where they thrive and feel confident. Negative attention doesn't motivate or drive--it ends up having the opposite effect.

As an educator, this is an interesting idea to me. Not sure how I feel about it yet. I think I'll let it marinate for a while. At the very least, I think it's something to consider. I don't know that in the modern, test-driven public school system it would necessarily work on a wide scale, but as a strategy for a teacher, perhaps. So many things influence how I approach my daily interaction with kids. I think this will eventually become one of them.

On to my strengths. I have to say, I was a little disappointed, only because they don't seem to show that much variety. Perhaps this is more a commentary on the lack of variety within myself rather than a commentary on the test. I can't find fault with any of them though. I think this is an accurate picture of me. I'm going to read the rest of the book tonight (it's pretty short) but I wanted to write about what I came up with as soon as possible. There are also some questions for consideration and ideas for action with each theme. I'll be taking a look at those later tonight too. I also realized after I wrote this that none of these has to do with other people--all about me. *sigh* I guess I'm just heartless. :)

My top 5 strength themes, as described by Strengths Finder (and then some snippets from the longer descriptors, paraphrased by me):
Ideation: People who are especially talented in the Ideation theme are fascinated by ideas. They are able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena.
Definitely. I think this is why I teach English. The connections thing is dead on. I love analyzing a novel or a film from every angle. That's not everyone's cup o' tea--I know that for sure. I can very easily look at something and figure out what the strand is that holds it together. And I like it, like it's some kind of crazy game. I love that challenge. People in this category thrive on discussion, like asking questions, and want to be understood. Yeah.

Another part of this theme is liking to work by myself. Yup. It says that in working alone, people like me are more able to go with whatever ideas or approaches to a task they dream up. Another component of this one is that I want to know people individually, and value close relationships. I "carefully examine" each person's personality, traits, etc. Yes, yes, yes. Definitely me.
Achiever: People who are especially talented in the Achiever theme have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction in being busy and productive.
Achiever seems connected to Ideation to me in that there is a component for Achievers of being able to reduce complex concepts and explain them to people. That's a task I need a lot for teaching--taking the patterns I see, or larger complex tasks and then being able to explain them to students, or being able to break down how to structure an essay, or execute a pirouette, or whatever it is.

Another part of this theme is hard work--setting goals and then working tirelessly to achieve them, desire to start projects and to finish them. Self motivation. A desire to motivate others. Ask E about that. :)
Input: People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.
People in the input category are collectors of information. They collect ideas, facts, information, then move to the abstract, in speculation. I think it's also interesting that the report says that people in this category will also quiz those around them who are equally fascinated with the abstract facets of life. Other aspects of this theme include approaching work with dignity, and possessing a rich vocabulary. People in this category will spend a considerable amount of time in thought about what to write or say before they begin, but once they have identified their main ideas, are able to express their thoughts with clarity.

People in this category will read everything they can--books, Internet sites, magazine articles, and then draw on these ideas often at a later time. I think this is really interesting, because maybe it explains my love of blogs, and the amount of time I spend reading them. One thing that hit home a bit was the desire to understand everything we read--that tends to mean I am a slower reader, but I want to digest everything and feel like I "get it." Like this: "you enjoy reading as long as you can savor each sentence and idea." Yes. I just savored that sentence right now.
Strategic: People who are especially talented in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot relevant patterns and issues.
Strategic people pay close attention to whatever is going on around them. (I would add: almost too much attention, sometimes.) This theme has a lot to do with being able to see patterns and instinctively know solutions for them. Strategic people focus a lot on intuition. People in this category look at obstacles like opportunities. That is without a doubt something that is in my nature. I don't look at tests, performances, or interviews like a threat. I look at them as my chance to shine. I always have. I tell myself that my nervousness just means that I want to do well, and that this is my chance to impress people. This theme also mentions something about wanting to work alone.

This theme mentions that sorting through large amounts of information doesn't intimidate me. I don't know. I guess it doesn't intimidate me as much as annoy me, but I'm up to the task when I need to be. Decision-making for people who exhibit this theme is done only after careful consideration and weighing all the options. That's me for sure. It takes me forever to make up my mind because I want to make the "right" choice every time.
Maximizer: People who are especially talented in the Maximizer theme focus on strengths as a way to stimulate personal and group excellence. They seek to transform something strong into something superb.
My final category is the Maximizer theme. This was the only one that E said at first he didn't think was right. I do, but I think maybe it's one that I exhibit much more in my professional life--it's the desire to take something that's already doing well and contribute to make it the best it can be. That's definitely something that energizes me. The first sentence is that people like me "always have something to say." Yes--at work--but not necessarily socially. I really do have almost two different personalities. At work I'm much more confident about what I think should and could be done. People in this category speak with strength and know the right words to say.

This one hit home big time--hope it doesn't make me sound too self-centered or ridiculous, but people in this category want to be around people who recognize their successes and value their accomplishments. Uh... yeah. That is TOTALLY me. I thrive when around supportive individuals, and "tend to distance myself from people who routinely ignore, downplay, or feel threatened by what [I] do well." Yes. Another aspect of this theme is getting worn out when having to do things repetitively. The descriptor says "your frustration increases when you know there is a better method but no one is willing to consider the changes you suggest." Oh geez. Welcome to working in the public education system, where nobody wants to do things the right way. And by "right," I mean my way. Haha. The last part of this one is that being ordered to do something saps my enthusiasm for what I am doing. Again, totally me.


I hope I haven't nauseated you with my self-analysis, but I suppose that's the way of these kind of things. Like I said before, now I want everyone I know to take it. I am fascinated by these things. I called Lis and my Dad tonight so I could talk to them (they've both taken it before) but neither of them were home. I want E to take it so bad, but that will mean buying another book--you only get one code per book. I'd be interested to hear what anybody else is, if you've taken it.

So far the book is interesting. I will post more once I've finished. I can definitely see some applications for this book in my career. I'll let you know how it goes.

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