The Ultimate Tool In Talent Identification, Application, and RESULTS

The Ultimate Tool In Talent Identification, Application, and RESULTS

By Darren Virassammy
COO – 34 Strong, Inc.

Over 13.5  Million People Can’t be Wrong…

In the 1950’s, Psychologist Donald O. Clifton asked the question, “What will happen when we think about what is right with people rather than fixating on what is wrong with them?”  This question became Dr. Clifton’s purpose as he launched into a world-wide research project to assess, understand and communicate the patterns of talent found in each of us. Over the next four decades, this research uncovered the language of Strengths found in what is today known as the Clifton StrengthsFinder, an online instrument which measures the presence of 34 talent themes found to be universal in all people but appearing in varying degrees in individuals.  Most teams start with their Top Five most dominant Talent Themes as a means to stimulate individual and group excellence.  The dominant themes and the order in which they occur within individuals is highly unique.   In fact, Gallup reports that the likelihood of two people having their top 5 in the exact same order is 1 in 33 million.  Since Clifton’s initial research and Gallup’s continual research and development, they have actually come up with over 6000 descriptions for all 34 themes that differ in the reports, based on the surrounding themes.

Take for instance the most commonly recurring theme, Achiever.  Those highly talented in the Achiever Theme tend to have a great deal of stamina, work hard, and derive great satisfaction from being productive and busy.  Two team mates may share the theme Achiever in their top 5.  However, when reviewing their personalized descriptions from their individual reports, the descriptions of Achiever will be different as a result of the filter that the other surrounding talents in their top 5 provide, to impact how each individual’s Achiever talents manifest themselves.

Not Just A Personality Test

Other assessments, such as Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®) and DiSC®(which StrengthsFinder often gets lumped with) are outstanding tools and often thought of and referred to as personality tests.  These tools do a great job of creating personality inventories identifying the ways individuals prefer to use their perception and judgement.  The StrengthsFinder goes into a much more granular understanding of each individual uniquely, presenting and understanding of them beyond personality and through the filter of their natural unique talent composition.  A great analogy used to describe the differences between traditional “personality profiles” and the StrengthsFinder is one of a home.  Where assessment like DiSC® and MBTI® will tell you what room you are in within a home, the StrengthsFinder will tell you the room, what color the walls are, if the bed is made, how the closet is organized, etc.

Individually, StrengthsFinder provides deep insight into the areas of talent, that uniquely make up our core wiring…often we may not even recognize as talent, because: “everybody works like that, right?”  On teams it can help us identify the areas where individuals uniquely contribute most effectively in “the Strengths Zone.”  It provides an opportunity for us individually and as a team to:

“See our brilliance and be our brilliance.”

Understanding Uniquely Dominant Talent: A Framework

Someone dominant in the StrengthsFinder Theme of Intellection is characterized by their intellectual activity.  The introspective process is critical to how they respond and interact with the world.  Someone dominant in this theme such as Jake Taylor, CEO of Farnam Street Investments, a value-based Hedge Fund and founder and host of Five Good Questions, a program focused on inspiring us to read more through five good questions asked weekly of different authors,  is a great example of this.  Jake contributes deep insight, strategy, and clarity to his business partners and those that he advises.  Through his Intellection theme, he needs the time to think, whether it is a beat, or a few days…a constant in his life, is that deep thought is always transpiring in the background, no matter what he does.  As Jake often likes to say:

“I'm no genius.  I'm smart in spots – but I stay around those spots.”
-Tom Watson St., Founder of IBM

For him, thinking is part of the doing process, and through Strengths, his team mates understand that giving him the time to reflect is integral to getting to clear, impactful decisions focused on the long term.  The walk that Jake may take at lunch by himself is where he is able to in his words:

“Spend a little more time thinking on the front end, so I can spend a lot less time doing on the back end.”

Man goes on concrete pier in the sunrise

Without Strengths, it could be very easy, for someone like myself more dominant in execution or “doing talents” such as Achiever, Arranger, and Responsibility, to completely misinterpret Jake’s walk or reflection time as a lack of contribution, when in fact, he may be thinking through a much broader perspective than I naturally may see on my first pass.  It is not to say that I can’t see what he does, nor that he can’t see the importance of doing.  It is to say, that through our natural talents, we gravitate toward different areas…me toward identifying the steps and then doing, Jake toward thinking through the high-level what and why and then coming up with a plan for action.  In working together, our differences can be hugely advantageous to each other and accomplishing common goals that we set.  We can also pull each other along, if perhaps I am going to task too fast, Jake can serve as the breaks, and I may be able to serve as an accelerator for doing if he finds himself in “analysis paralysis.”

Through Strengths, not only can we identify the unique contributions that we will make, we can identify the unique contributions our team mates make.  We can also understand the Needs that we have, and that our team mates uniquely have.

“As identified by Gallup, all 34 Themes fall into one of 4 Leadership domains of Strength: Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, and Strategic Thinking.”

While we may have dominant themes from a variety of these domains, we typically have a domain that we are dominant in.  Four of Jake’s Top Five are within the Strategic Thinking domain.  As such, those working with him and understanding Strengths, know they can count on him to contribute ideas, information, and direction.  They can also understand that he Needs to understand the high-level why and what, needs room to imagine and to explore ideas for meaning to be able to contribute effectively.  Naturally, Jake will ask the questions to understand the high level why/what, or create pockets of solitude to think.

Three of my Top Five are in the Executing domain.  Through Strengths, those working with me, know I will contribute concrete reality, details, goals and processes.  They can also understand that I will need practical steps, task orientation, and want to see where we are headed.  Naturally, I go to questions of: where are we going with this?  What are the steps to get there?

Those dominant in Influencing themes such as 34 Strong CEO, Brandon Miller contribute extensively through their ability to convince, ignite, energize and enroll others.  The Influencing themes may need to connect to a cause, receive validation, energy, have strong leadership, and the ability to verbally process…(think through talking).   Naturally, Brandon may need to the opportunity to talk it out to gain clarity on his thoughts.

Those dominant in Relationship Building Themes, such as 34 Strong CFO, Perry Ghilarducci, have contributions including: Accepting, Listening, Inviting, and Connecting.  These themes tend to be a catalyst for holding the team together.  They need: Authentic Relationships, Encouragement, Listening back and a non-judgmental space.    Naturally, Perry wants to connect with the person first on a personal level, creating that authentic connection before going to task.

Understanding contributions and needs is such a critical part of strengths that, 34 Strong launched a series, Leading with Self Awareness, covering all 34 themes individually and domains. This weekly series starts on May 19, 2016, covering 1 theme each week.

The Results

Some very select findings from Gallup indicate that those using their Strengths everyday have some significant advantages including:

  • People who use their strengths are 3 times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life.
  • People who use their strengths are 6 times as likely to be engaged in their jobs.
  • People who learn to use their strengths every day have 7.8% greater productivity at work.
  • Teams who receive strengths feedback have 8.9% greater profitability.
  • Teams who receive strengths feedback have 14.9% lower turnover.


These outcomes are merely the tip of the iceberg, and the results stretch far beyond these findings.  The bottom line is, as Strengths focus impacts the bottom line and much more.

As noted by 34 Strong CEO Brandon Miller:

“Many successful organizations utilize the StrengthsFinder as a tool to on-board new team members, evaluate performance, manage teams, team build and coach executive leaders. The application of the Clifton StrengthsFinder maximizes employee engagement, increases employee retention, and provides the knowledge and skills to help managers drive effective performance management. Employee engagement drives productivity. Increased productivity drives profitability. Profitability drives shareholder value. The StrengthsFinder, has the ability to impact every meaningful metric within an organization. “

To date, the Clifton StrengthsFinder has been administered to over 13.5 million people worldwide. Consider these characteristics of team members, when leadership focuses on strength

  • Team members look forward to going to work
  • They have more positive than negative interactions with co-workers
  • These team members treat customers better
  • They will tell their friends they work for a great company
  • Daily, they will Achieve more
  • Team members focused on strengths have more positive, creative and innovative moments


The data is irrefutable, a focus on strength really does make a substantial difference.

So What Now What?

So here are some questions for you to ponder…have you identified Strengths on your team?  Do you know the differences on your team that are actually an advantage?  How can learning about strengths, developing strengths on your team and having a common language to discuss and understand talent impact your team?  Are you in your Strengths Zone, getting the opportunity to do what you do best very day?  How about your team mates…do they have that opportunity every day?  OR…are you like near 70% of the U.S. workforce and disengaged in your work?  Have you erected barriers with co-workers, or others erected barriers with you, because respectively you are bad people?  OR…has it taken place because there is a failure to see and value the contributions that we bring and needs that we uniquely have?  Perhaps we are overvaluing our contributions and undervaluing others’ because of these barriers and because of our own talents?  How can Strengths help to remove these barriers and get to the results mentioned above for your team?

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a Strengths-Based Culture.  If you are ready to take the StrengthsFinder and get your e-book copy of StrengthsFinder 2.0, 34 Strong is proud to announce that you can now take it directly through us by clicking HERE.

We believe so strongly in Strengths and the lasting positive change it makes on teams, that we have personally experienced and seen with our clients, we had to figure out a way to work with Gallup to provide it directly to you…that day has come.  In fact, if you have a team, and purchase over 15 codes, we will provide you a phone-session, walking you through how to create a strengths-based culture for your team as part of your our commitment to your success in going beyond just the assessment.

So again I ask…are you getting to be your best everyday?  Is your team getting to be at its best collectively everyday?  If you are ready to start the talent unleashing process, for a whopping $15 per person, take the StrengthsFinder by clicking HERE.  At 34 Strong: In Talent, we believe…do you?


You are 1 in 33 million.  Do you Know your Top 5?  Take the StrengthsFinder NOW!


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Darren Virassammy is Co-Founder and COO of 34 Strong Inc. a leader in StrengthsFinder training and consulting. 34 Strong works with organizations across the United States in developing teams around talent to optimize performance and maximize results. His Top Five are: Achiever, Arranger Relator, Learner, Responsibility. You can connect with him on LinkedIn, or Twitter.
Photo Credits: &
References: Gallup,