Strengths Stories

Strengths Determine How Not What

Yesterday I convinced one of my best friends to upgrade from the basic top five Strengths report to the full thirty-four report because I think it helps me improve as a coach to see the Strengths of those I’ve known really well for years. Plus I was also incredibly curious what was hiding out there in his top ten.

(As an aside, I think the top five is a great place for people who are new to Strengths to start because it’s nice and manageable, but I really think that anyone who takes Strengths seriously should find out what their top ten Strengths are. As a Maximizer I’m not that interested in the bottom of someone’s Strengths report because why worry about who you aren’t, but that six through ten is a rich area for self-knowledge and development.)

Anyway. It was really interesting and prompted me to make this post.

My friend is a career skydiver who has around 20,000 jumps in addition to the jumps he did as a BASE jumper. His hobbies include hunting, mountain biking, and sea kayak fishing and he makes biltong (a South African version of jerky) in his spare time.

He’s a man’s man if such a thing exists.

And yet his Strengths are not what one might initially assume someone like that would have. His top ten are: Relator, Empathy, Intellection, Adaptability, Consistency, Positivity, Self-Assurance, Harmony, Developer, and Responsibility.

I would say most people don’t think of a guy who makes a living jumping out of planes as having Strengths like Empathy, Harmony, and Positivity because those sometimes come with a soft connotation. (It’s that EQ idea, right?)

Yet those Strengths definitely fit him and they definitely benefited him in his career. As a tandem master he was able to bring his Empathy, Positivity, and Developer to working with scared newbies who were jumping out of a plane for the first time. (Myself included, it’s how we met.) Also that Adaptability and Self-Assurance help when you have a malfunction in your parachute while plummeting toward earth at terminal velocity. And the Harmony and Consistency allow for someone who creates a calm, even environment which can be valuable in a high adrenaline setting like that.

His results are a perfect example of how your Strengths don’t define what you should do, but instead provide guidelines for how to do it. For example, looking at my friend’s Strengths I would advise him to avoid any work environment that has a lot of conflict and backstabbing. That would make someone like him who has Relator, Empathy, Positivity, and Harmony absolutely miserable.

It’s not always what you do, it’s the environment in which you do it that really matters.

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