Gregory HellerI’m a Gallup-Certified CliftonStrengths Coach, and work with MBA students at the Foster School of Business to understand their talents, invest in developing them into strengths, and then using those strengths to achieve goals and overcome challenges.

Whenever you are starting something new, as our class of 2021 grads are now, and our class of 22 students who are beginning their internships, it can be a good idea to revisit your strengths and make a plan to achieve your goals.  With that in mind, let me start out by explaining that there are three components to CliftonStrengths Coaching. We call these Name It, Claim It and Aim It.

When we say Name It, we are talking about helping you identify the talents from your CliftonStrengths report that most resonate with you. Remember, the 34 talent themes are just that, THEMES. I like to think of them as buckets of related talents. Your activator will be different than my activator. When you read your talent report – whether you have just your top 5 or the full 34 – you want to read the talent descriptions and highlight the words and phrases that you connect with most.

In Claim It, you are developing an appreciation for your dominant talents. Sometimes these talents are so natural to us that we don’t even realize the role they have played in our lives – we take them for granted. Claiming them means to develop the self-awareness about power and opportunity these talents afford you. It is also about taking responsibility for investing in them and developing the talent into a strength.  Remember, Talent + Investment = Strength

Aim It is all about intentionally developing your talents and understanding how to specifically use your talents to accomplish goals, overcome challenges, respond to things that happen every day. Remember, talents have both an outward presentation, how you use them, and can also act as a filter for the way you experience the world.

There are four domains of talent:

  • Executing themes that help you make things happen.
  • Influencing themes that help you take charge, speak up and make sure others are heard.
  • Relationship building themes that help you build strong relationships that hold a team together.
  • Strategic Thinking themes that help you absorb and analyze information that informs better decisions.

When you are starting something new, you can think about these four domains, and develop some goals within each and then think about how you can use your dominant talents – not limited to the talent themes within this domain – to achieve those goals.

If you need to do some naming and claiming, you can think about these 4 talent domains, and ask yourself how each of your dominant talents have helped you make things happen, take charge, speak up and make sure others are heard, build strong relationships that hold a team together, absorb and analyze information to inform better decisions. Think of specific examples from your life and work, and then think about how your themes contributed to that example.

I often suggest this as a journaling exercise adapted from the CliftonStrengths Talent Map Exercise.  Each day for a week, you could start by reading the description of one of your talents in your CliftonStrengths report, maybe even listen to an episode of Gallup’s Theme Thursday Podcast to gain deeper understanding of that talent theme, and then journal answering the following questions and identifying a specific example:

  • How has this theme helped you make things happen?
  • How has this theme helped you take charge, speak up and make sure others are heard?
  • How has this theme helped you build strong relationships that hold a team together?
  • How has this theme helped absorb and analyze information that informs better decisions?

You may not have dominant talents in each domain of talent. That’s okay. I am particularly light on Executing themes.  I use Influencing and Relationship building themes to make things happen.  This is why the journaling exercise can be so powerful. It can help you realize that a lack of themes in a domain, doesn’t mean you lack completely lack talent in that domain.  When we know how we have been successful in the past, and we understand how to use our talents across domains, we can invest in them, and we can aim them with intention.

Another activity that can help you prepare for success at the start of something new is to review the blind spots section for your top 5 (or 10 if you have your full report) talent themes.  These blind spots that are common to each talent theme are ways the theme can hold you back.  In essence, these are the ways your talents can show up more like a weakness.  Any talent misapplied can be a weakness.  

Understanding how you might misapply a talent can help you avoid getting off on the wrong foot when starting something new.  I can recognize how many of the times I have failed or come up short are attributable to a misapplication of a talent, more than the absence of one.

Your talents can also be a filter for the way you experience situations.  At the start of something new, be mindful of your feelings and emotions. If you are feeling negative emotions like frustration, disappointment, or even anger, check your themes. Are you experiencing something that could “offend” one of your themes? Let me give you an example: Activator is my number one theme. If I am in a meeting, and a decision to do something gets put off, I cringe a little bit, I role my eyes, I might even start to tune out.  My activator wants to get things started! Delaying a decision to start something, or try something “offends” my activator.

Here’s another example, one of my dominant themes is relator. I like to work with a small team of people I am friends with and trust. My relator wants to build trust over time. Joining a new team, with people I do not know well can be challenging, especially if others on the team already know and trust each other. I need to fight two competing tendencies based on my themes, hang back until I have developed relationships and trust, or use my influencing themes to take charge (which can be a misapplication of talent). If instead I recognize what is going on, I can lean into my relator talents and my individualization talents to get to know the people on the team and build that trust more quickly.

And this is a perfect example of how you can bring what you know about yourself and your talent themes together to aim them for success.

To learn more about CliftonStrengths, visit or check out the link in the show notes.

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