I’m sure you’ve been asked the age-old question, “What are your strengths?”
Depending on our level of self-awareness, we often answer thinking more about what the person asking wants to hear than what is actually our own truth.
This is a bummer because there’s real power in knowing and owning our true strengths.
In 2017, I completed the Gallup Certified Strengths Coach certification, thinking it would be a good tool to have in my toolbox. After helping several CPAs and firms with Strengths Programs, I’ve seen the impact it can have on individuals, workgroups and the firm as a whole. This is a culture-changer that results in better business outcomes.
In this post, I’m answering some common questions about Strengths (aka CliftonStrengths, CliftonStrengths 34, or StrengthsFinder) to help you determine if this could be right for your CPA firm.
What is CliftonStrengths?
CliftonStrengths aims to maximize each individual’s potential by developing them to be great at what comes naturally to them.
It begins with a tool that assesses natural patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior. Following the assessment, an individual receives a report of their unique sequence of talents. The person can use this information to explore how their talents can best help them achieve their goals.
Why do you like CliftonStrengths for CPA firms?
Strengths is a research-based and it takes a positive approach to our development. Some CPA firms are rooted in a deficit management approach to developing people. They focus more on mitigating weaknesses than maximizing Strengths. CliftonStrengths turns that on its head and focuses on what people do well.
Accounting firms often have fluid teams and accountant team members report to many different managers. In the ‘multi-boss environment’, having a common language and understanding of one another through a tool like Strengths helps smooth out cultural bumps and vastly improve team communication.
Gallup research shows that this approach increases employee engagement, productivity and business outcomes because people feel empowered when they get to do what they do best every day. (Yes!) Note: interested in some great articles on this topic? Send me an email and I’ll be happy to send resources your way.
What does a Strengths Program look like?
- A firm determines if Strengths is a good fit and ensures leadership is fully on board.
- Everyone in the firm takes the CliftonStrengths assessment.
- We facilitate learning programs to understand what Strengths mean and explore the different Strengths that make up a team or workgroup.
- We provide one-on-one and group coaching for leaders, managers and workgroups.
- The firm uses the language and continues talking about Strengths in meetings. To be effective, this need to be part of the company conversation and I provide some creative ways to keep Strengths front and center.
Is there a particular set of Strengths we can look for when we hire or evaluate performance?
As a numbers person, I love this stat from Gallup. According to the organization, the odds of someone having the same Top 5 Themes in the same order as you is 1 in 33.4 million. If we were to look beyond order, the probability of finding two people with the same top 5 themes is 1 in 278 thousand.
So, in short, no, there is no optimal combination of Strengths that aligns with a job description. And that’s not really how the tool works.
Each person has their own set of Strengths. Different Strengths can be used in different ways to make you successful. A diversity of Strengths in a team is very helpful. People in the same position can be effective with different Strengths.
For example, here are the top two Strengths of three CPA firm partners. Each partner is effective in his/her role. They just approach their work differently based on their Strengths.
- Partner 1: Developer & Relator
- Partner 2: Maximizer & Self-Assurance
- Partner 3: Individualization & Arranger
Here’s a quick guide to the definitions of these and the other Themes if you’re not familiar.
What are your top 5 Strengths?
Well, thanks for asking! I took this assessment 7 years ago and learned new words to describe myself. Since then, I’ve been able to leverage my Strengths in what I do. Here are my top five:
Of these, Adaptability and Activator are current favorites. I love getting things done and am happy to change things up to fit the needs of any situation. Maybe it was luck, or maybe it was influence, that my 6th grade teacher had our class repeat, nearly every day, that 'Flexiblity is the Key to Life'. He would say something like: "Good morning students, today we're going to have to study history first because of the assembly, but as you know, flexiblity is the..." "Key to life!" we'd reply in unison.
and Here’s an example of my Activator strength in action:
Do you have a question about Strengths or just want to learn more? Would you like a free Strengths assessment to check it out for your organization? I'd be happy to send you one. Directly schedule an appointment with me or reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One thing I’m always doing with my clients is helping them identify the next step, the action item, the “one thing they can do” to move forward with an initiative. If this sounds appealing to you, click one of the links above.