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Understanding strengths-based development

The approach

Your best bet for success lies in building on who you already are, not in trying to become someone you are not.

Gallup researchers, often in partnership with colleges and universities, have examined decades of data on the topics of individual performance and personal development. All of this research has shown that traditional approaches to personal development are incomplete. To help eliminate that gap, Gallup created the strengths-based development approach and launched the CliftonStrengths assessment, leading millions of people worldwide to discover their areas of natural talent. 


Gallup research has proven that the best opportunity for people to grow and develop — and net the greatest return on investment — is to identify the ways in which they most naturally think, feel, and behave, and then build upon those talents to create strengths: the ability to consistently provide near-perfect performance. 


Strengths-based development is not just about identifying people's talents and strengths. It is about helping people recognize and develop their talents and strengths and then learn to apply these talents and strengths to accomplish their goals. Our greatest talents — the ways in which we most naturally think, feel, and behave — represent our innate power and potential. When we tap into this source of wisdom and power, we gain the ability to transform every moment, every interaction, and every day.

You cannot be anything you want to be — but you can be a lot more of who you already are.

The Clifton StrengthsFinder is an accelerator. Instead of spending years of personal development, awareness, monitoring, and analyzing, Gallup has developed an online tool to help individuals discover their areas of greatest talent in less than 40 minutes. To become our best selves, we must increase our understanding of our talents.

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How can focusing on talent change your journey?

Conventional versus strengths-based development

Gallup has identified, through its research, that Identifying and leveraging your strengths allows you access to greatness and that the conventional approach to development can actually restrict your access to greatness. Here’s why: he conventional approach to development starts with the assumption that once you are good at something, we don't need to worry about it. We simply maintain our strengths and work on fixing our weaknesses. Therefore, all you need to do is:

  1. Maintain each person's strengths and work on fixing weaknesses. 

  2. Identify improvement areas 

  3. Develop an improvement plan 


But if this were true, then every great athlete, musician, dancer, performer, mathematician, scientist, doctor, teacher, speaker, and so many others do not need to train, practice, exercise, fail and succeed in their craft - a statement that we know is false. 


The conventional approach also shares that most behaviors can be learned. With this premise, we have to assume, for example, that a person who has always struggled with numbers can become proficient enough to become an accountant or statistician if he takes the right classes and practices enough. It is true that they can, with enough practice and memorization, develop the skills required in a position. Yet, it is common knowledge that they will have to work harder, longer, and with more intensity than someone who is naturally proficient with numbers. Why continue to focus on ways and approaches that may sound wonderful, but are not wonderful for the individual? This is where the difference lies: strengths-based development focuses on an approach that is unique for each individual - understanding that their combination of strengths in 1 in 33 million.

Why are we not learning from the best in the world?

Why are we not learning from the best in the world, like dancers such as Mikhail Baryshnikov who is known around the world as an incredible ballet dancer, or Yo-Yo Ma who tours the world to play the cello? Or Lionel Messi as a soccer (football) player. Or Bob Dylan for his literary/songwriting skills.


Imagine if we had taken the traditional route and told the ballet dancer to focus their time on racket sports or the writer to work on their science skills - what would the world look like today? Would they have achieved the greatness we know them for? And why isn't everyone doing the same thing? This is what strengths-based development aims to change - that there is a focus on what we are already naturally good at.


What is the intended
purpose of CliftonStrengths? 

Individuals, employees, managers, executives, teams, students, couples, families

The CliftonStrengths primary application has been in the work domain, but it has been used for understanding individuals in a variety of roles and settings — employees, executives, teams, students, teachers, couples, parenting, families, well-being, and personal development.


Although it is a psychometric test, it is not intended for clinical assessment or diagnosis of psychiatric disorders, nor is it a selection or evaluation tool - CliftonStrengths are to be used for developmental purposes only.

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