As you may note from prior Dyn posts, our employees take the StrengthsFinder test and display our top five on nameplates at our desks. Recently, I was given the book Strengths Based Leadership (by the same authors) and thought I’d give it a whirl.
Since I started at Dyn in March 2011, I transitioned from an individual contributor to leading a team with four direct reports and three summer interns. I’m also a co-leader/vice leader of a few sub committees and task forces. As I prepared to take a second test, I expected that my strengths would remain the same. After all, a strength is a strength.
It was interesting, however, that I found myself answering the questions a bit differently than the first round. I felt myself answering more as a person who influences and guides a team and less about how I personally approach a situation.
Here’s how things changed.
As I indicated above, you must first take a several hundred question “test” to obtain your strengths. After the test is complete, they spit out your strengths and then a nice document explaining the strength, what it means, how you are likely to behave and things you might need to be aware of when interacting with others with different strengths.
Here are my strengths and how they changed:
- Old Strengths
- New Strengths
Here is a little bit more on the definitions of my old and new strengths (paraphrased from the book).
Intellection – Enjoying and having intellectual discussions and enjoy thinking about them introspectively.
Analytical – Enjoying the search for reasons and causes using many data points. I am an accountant after all.
Competition – Measuring your own progress against others.
Context – Using knowledge and data from past events to understand the present. Essentially, trying to use your experiences to guide the future.
Input – Desire to learn more and collect as much information as possible…guide others with this information.
Achiever – Desire to work hard and need to be busy and productive.
Learner – Desire to continuously improve.
Harmony – Wanting to look for consensus and do not like conflict, but rather agreement.
Out With The Old, In With The New
As I look back at the definitions and traits of my old strengths (achiever, learner, and harmony), it is really easy to see how a manager would give up these traits and gain new ones. It is even more interesting to see how these stack up with what changed.
Achiever vs. Input
As an individual contributor, it was easy to strive to be busy and productive. However, as a manager, you often go through waves of busy periods. Managers answer questions, work on special projects or hit less busy times. That said, as a manager you need to gather information from multiple sources so that you can make the best decision possible and guide your team. Sometimes the hardest part of moving from an individual contributor to a manager is delegating work that would otherwise keep you busy all the time.
Harmony vs. Competition
I personally believe that the higher you move in an organization, the more competitive you become. You start comparing your team to others in the company. You start asking questions like:
- Is our team as productive as others at the company?
- What do others in the company think about our team?
- What do I need to do to get others to view our team as valuably as I do?
So as managers, part of what we do is communicate what our own teams do and build the value proposition on what our team does with other managers. I find myself spending less time gathering consensus within my team, as they look to me for decisions.
Learner vs. Context
I make no secret that I love learning new things and will read what you might call “useless knowledge” to better myself. This is the key with the “learner” strength. However, as a manager with the “context” strength, I find I use past experiences in public accounting, work in IT, and jobs in advertising and web design to make decisions. I’ve seen no less than 100 different companies in my public accounting career and have a wide range of “how they do it” to guide decisions.
Take It For What It Is Worth
As a person who has taken many “personality” tests through my Human Resource Classes in college, my marriage preparation process and now StrengthsFinder, they are shockingly good at predicting your tendencies. But I place key emphasis on the words “predicting” and “tendencies.” These tests merely point out ways you are most likely to act. We all break out of these tendencies and act differently as situations change.
What I like about these tests though is they help you understand your personality and help your team understand where you’re coming from as you make decisions.
What will really be interesting: how will my strengths change 10 years from now?