I have been really fortunate throughout my career to have been offered plenty of development tools. One such tool – the CliftonStrengths assessment – came along at the same time I was working with my therapist using a Positive Psychology lens. The kismet alignment of this work both professionally and personally really reinforced the lessons and usefulness of the tools.
Let’s back up a moment and talk about each tool. CliftonStrengths (called the Clifton StrengthsFinder when I first encountered it) is an assessment tool that evaluates your performance to determine your strengths. By taking a deeper dive into learning those strengths, you can uncover what makes you unique and what skills you should lean into. Rather than focusing on improving areas where you may not be skilled, the assessment helps you learn how to use your strengths to accomplish goals in a way that fits you better. The program was developed in 1990 by a psychologist Donald Clifton, referred to as the “grandfather of positive psychology.”
See why they fit together?
Positive Psychology isn’t exactly what it sounds. It’s not about staying on the sunny side of life or taking a Pollyanna approach to living. Positive Psychology is the study of strengths that allow people to thrive. Rather than focus on what needs fixing in your life, you focus on what is working, what are the best parts of you. By leaning into those things, you are happier and more fulfilled, which opens the doors to building new, related skills. By building upon your existing strengths, you bring along the weaker parts of you until they, too, are stronger.
Both my experiences working with my Positive Psychology therapist and learning about the CliftonStrengths in a professional setting were a revelation. No longer did I feel like I had so much work to do on self-improvement. I was a whole and complete person just the way I was! I even had qualities that were stronger than others, qualities that people I knew wished they had. And by using my strengths to their fullest potential, I could find ways to work around my weaknesses or improve them enough to be useful.
(If you are wondering, mine are Strategic | Learner | Woo | Ideation | Positivity.)
I’ve found the CliftonStrengths to be incredibly useful in working with and managing others – far more so than any other professional tool that seems similar. This isn’t a commercial for CliftonStrengths, but it could be! It has helped me through some difficult working relationships. It helps me often balance the work on our team. I have found that it gives me insight into how a staff member could be inspired to work better. And, yes, it lets me stay more on the sunny side of life.
I don’t think anyone needs to use CliftonStrengths or have a therapist who specializes in Positive Psychology to benefit from this research. There are some great books and tools available. (The Positive Psychology Center where this research started is probably the best place to begin.) The best part of all is that it’s truly fun! For me, it felt like the first time ever I could focus on what was great about me and not dwell on what wasn’t.