When I transferred to the University of Minnesota as an Undergraduate student, I was gifted the opportunity to complete a StrengthsFinder assessment. After a decade of having worked in nonprofits that valued employee engagement and success, in addition to participating in the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Leadership Institute, taking assessments had become like second nature.


The Clifton StrengthsFinder utilizes aspects of Positive Psychology and Strengths Perspective to assess talent through what is generally just considered personality. It won't tell you what you should do, but rather spotlight a naturally high capacity for specific aptitudes. This type of information is clearly an asset to potential employers, but even more valuable to those of us who appreciate being self-aware, for personal goal setting, but perhaps more importantly for working as part of a successful team. 


My results showed my Top Five Themes as Restorative , Activator, Connectedness, Individualization, and Strategic.


TL;DR: I am an effective and enthusiastic leader who appreciates collaboration, the input of respected colleagues, and opportunities to innovate or improve upon programs and processes without fear of failure. I speak passionately about my work, and my energy engages and excites others around me, often serving as a catalyst for joining my cause.


I build things and relationships, and my relationships build things. We get things done.


Here’s what that means in real life:


I am not afraid of problems. I embrace them.


At its core, every single employable position exists to solve a unique set of problems, right? This fact makes my Restorative theme, which actively seeks out and identifies such complications, a particularly necessary strength. Combine this with my Activator theme, and a spotlight shines on my ability to approach issues, and to generate but more importantly act on thoughtfully tailored solutions. Pair this with the Strategic theme emphasizing my ability to quickly evaluate such problems holistically, with attention to small details as well as Big Picture scenarios. Additionally, Individualization highlights my capacity to motivate others by identifying and encouraging their unique strengths and enthusiastically engaging them into action that responds in kind. Connectedness only furthers such Strategic thinking by analyzing potential advantages and consequences to several possible paths of action, and the effect these outcomes might have on any and every other moving part(s), providing rational and cohesive problem theory without paralyzing the work to accomplish it.


So, not only can I strategize short and long-term goals, conceive of several appropriate solutions, and analyze the potential outcomes, but I can also deliver this work into action and get other folks excited about the work involved.


Basically, I am an effective and enthusiastic leader who appreciates collaboration, the input of respected colleagues, and the opportunity to innovate and improve upon programs without fear of failure. Whenever I talk about the pursuit of progress, I can engage and excite others around me into joining my cause.


I build things and relationships, and my relationships build things. We get things done.







Here is what my themes entail according to Gallop




You love to solve problems. Whereas some are dismayed when they encounter yet another breakdown, you can be energized by it. You enjoy the challenge of analyzing the symptoms, identifying what is wrong, and finding the solution. You may prefer practical problems or conceptual ones or personal ones. You may seek out specific kinds of problems that you have met many times before and that you are confident you can fix. Or you may feel the greatest push when faced with complex and unfamiliar problems. Your exact preferences are determined by your other themes and experiences. But what is certain is that you enjoy bringing things back to life. It is a wonderful feeling to identify the undermining factor(s), eradicate them, and restore something to its true glory. Intuitively, you know that without your intervention, this thing—this machine, this technique, this person, this company—might have ceased to function. You fixed it, resuscitated it, rekindled its vitality. Phrasing it the way you might, you saved it.




“When can we start?” This is a recurring question in your life. You are impatient for action. You may concede that analysis has its uses or that debate and discussion can occasionally yield some valuable insights, but deep down you know that only action is real. Only action can make things happen. Only action leads to performance. Once a decision is made, you cannot not act. Others may worry that “there are still some things we don’t know,” but this doesn’t seem to slow you. If the decision has been made to go across town, you know that the fastest way to get there is to go stoplight to stoplight. You are not going to sit around waiting until all the lights have turned green. Besides, in your view, action and thinking are not opposites. In fact, guided by your Activator theme, you believe that action is the best device for learning. You make a decision, you take action, you look at the result, and you learn. This learning informs your next action and your next. How can you grow if you have nothing to react to? Well, you believe you can’t. You must put yourself out there. You must take the next step. It is the only way to keep your thinking fresh and informed. The bottom line is this: You know you will be judged not by what you say, not by what you think, but by what you get done. This does not frighten you. It pleases you.




Things happen for a reason. You are sure of it. You are sure of it because in your soul you know that we are all connected. Yes, we are individuals, responsible for our own judgments and in possession of our own free will, but nonetheless we are part of something larger. Some may call it the collective unconscious. Others may label it spirit or life force. But whatever your word of choice, you gain confidence from knowing that we are not isolated from one another or from the earth and the life on it. This feeling of Connectedness implies certain responsibilities. If we are all part of a larger picture, then we must not harm others because we will be harming ourselves. We must not exploit because we will be exploiting ourselves. Your awareness of these responsibilities creates your value system. You are considerate, caring, and accepting. Certain of the unity of humankind, you are a bridge builder for people of different cultures. Sensitive to the invisible hand, you can give others comfort that there is a purpose beyond our humdrum lives. The exact articles of your faith will depend on your upbringing and your culture, but your faith is strong. It sustains you and your close friends in the face of life’s mysteries.




Your Individualization theme leads you to be intrigued by the unique qualities of each person. You are impatient with generalizations or “types” because you don’t want to obscure what is special and distinct about each person. Instead, you focus on the differences between individuals. You instinctively observe each person’s style, each person’s motivation, how each thinks, and how each builds relationships. You hear the one-of-a-kind stories in each person’s life. This theme explains why you pick your friends just the right birthday gift, why you know that one person prefers praise in public and another detests it, and why you tailor your teaching style to accommodate one person’s need to be shown and another’s desire to “figure it out as I go.” Because you are such a keen observer of other people’s strengths, you can draw out the best in each person. This Individualization theme also helps you build productive teams. While some search around for the perfect team “structure” or “process,” you know instinctively that the secret to great teams is casting by individual strengths so that everyone can do a lot of what they do well.




The Strategic theme enables you to sort through the clutter and find the best route. It is not a skill that can be taught. It is a distinct way of thinking, a special perspective on the world at large. This perspective allows you to see patterns where others simply see complexity. Mindful of these patterns, you play out alternative scenarios, always asking, “What if this happened? Okay, well what if this happened?” This recurring question helps you see around the next corner. There you can evaluate accurately the potential obstacles. Guided by where you see each path leading, you start to make selections. You discard the paths that lead nowhere. You discard the paths that lead straight into resistance. You discard the paths that lead into a fog of confusion. You cull and make selections until you arrive at the chosen path—your strategy. Armed with your strategy, you strike forward. This is your Strategic theme at work: “What if?” Select. Strike.