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6 Easy Ways to Use CliftonStrengths with Your Team

Have you and your team taken the CliftonStrengths assessment, but don’t really use it as much as you’d like? You had such high hopes for how it would improve you and your team’s lives, but after your initial training and discussions it just kind of fell by the wayside. So, in this article, I want to break down a few ways you and your team can easily integrate this powerful tool into your daily lives.

One of the more common things we hear is, “We’ve all taken CliftonStrengths, but we haven’t really utilized it on a regular basis. We want increase how we use it but aren’t sure where to start.” And honestly, that’s pretty typical. I mean taking the assessment and doing the initial training is fun and insightful. Plus, you intentionally set aside that time. But after that, life gets in the way, right? You want to do more, but since you’re not quite sure what to do and now there’s a student crying in your office, you tuck it away until you have more time to think about it.

And quite frankly, it can feel overwhelming to try to integrate a new thing into an already overwhelmed schedule. I remember when we started using Strengths on our campus. Conceptually, I thought it was awesome. But since I didn’t really understand all 34 Talent Themes or what to do with them, I just relied on Alicia and our colleague, Erin, to train my team and tell me what to do next. And even then, I ignored some of their suggested next steps because I felt like I had to master everything before I jumped in.

But you don’t have to know everything about all 34 Talent Themes, or even your own to start! We want you and your team to start using this amazing tool to help increase your productivity AND sense of wellbeing. So today, I’m going to give you a few Strengths hacks to help you upgrade how you use this tool for yourself and your team.



To start us off, let’s talk about the two most useful questions you can use to integrate Strengths into your daily practice and increase your productivity. In almost any situation, asking one or both of these questions can go a long way to improving outcomes AND utilizing CliftonStrengths…

How are your Talent Theme’s helping you with _____?

How are your Talent Theme’s getting in the way with _____?

You can tweak these based on the situation. If you’re thinking about something that hasn’t happened yet, like you’re getting ready to start a project, it’s “how CAN your Talent Themes help you with _____?” Or if you’re reflecting on something that already happened, “how DID your Talent Themes help you,” etc.

You can use these questions as self-reflection prompts, or to help coach your team members and even your students if they’ve taken the assessment. I will add that when you first start using these questions, you might not get the most insightful answers both from yourself and others. Why? Because folks don’t typically think about themselves in this way.

And if you haven’t been talking about Strengths much in the past, your team members and students may not even remember what their Talent Themes really mean. That’s okay. Just have them pull up their report and have them look at one or two to get them started. The important thing is to keep at it. You’re setting up the expectation that this is how you’re going to navigate things now. Eventually, they’ll come more prepared to answer these questions. And it will become easier for you the more you keep at it.



We’ve been using this tool for almost 10 years. And each time we re-read our CliftonStrengths report, we get some new insight about ourselves. So, make this a habit for yourself and your team. Set aside time on your schedule maybe once a month or semester to re-read a Talent Theme or even your whole report. Have your team members do the same. Then add in the accountability piece by having folks share their new insights in your next team meeting or one-on-one.

I’ll just add that if it’s been a while since you did your initial Strengths training and you haven’t been using it much or at all, I’d recommend doing another training around it as a refresher. We’re happy to help you with that if you don’t have someone on campus who can do it.

And if this IS you, please don’t feel like you wasted time and money on the initial training. Our brains learn and grow through repetition and consistency, but that’s not our standard operating procedure. Think about how many other trainings or books you’ve bought that seemed just as exciting, but you didn’t do anything with them. I’ve done the same thing too many times to count. It’s not you. It’s how your brain works. Investing in more training is preventing you from wasting that initial training. And this time, you’ll know what you can do to keep the momentum going.



Yes, you have a list of your Top 5 or 10 Talent Themes. You even have a lovely description in your report. But the real power of this tool comes from reflecting on how your talents show up for YOU. Remember, your talents can be your greatest superpower, but they can also be your kryptonite. If you don’t know how your talents are showing up, they might very well be getting in your way.

Take a few minutes every day to reflect on how your talents helped you and how they might have gotten in your way – again, back to those initial powerful questions. And when we say a few minutes, we mean just a few, like 2 – 5 minutes a day. That will go a long way in helping you understand your Talent Theme’s patterns. No, you’re not going to get an exhaustive list in 2-5 minutes, but you’ll be creating a habit of thinking about yourself in terms of your Strengths. That means with time, instead of reflecting after the fact, your brain is going to start to remind you in the moment, “Hey, you’re doing that thing with your Strategic again that stresses you out so much.” That means you can start shifting in the moment.

Again, it’s easy for life to get in the way of your plans, so put it in your calendar. Since it’s such a short period of time, one way to this stick is by combining it with another habit you already have. Do you always go grab a coffee in the morning? While you’re waiting for your order, reflect and make some notes. Do you usually just zone out or think about other projects during those committee meetings? Lol. Why not use that time to reflect on your Talent Themes?



Whether you’re coaching your team as a group or individually, be sure to bring in those two powerful questions. If you’re not sure what I mean by coaching, check out my past articles on that topic. But in a nutshell, coaching is about helping lead and develop your team by asking them questions vs feeding them answers.

Your folks probably come to you frequently to ask questions or get your advice on things. And yes, it’s often easier and faster to just give them an answer. But if you want to help your team reflect, grow, AND maybe figure stuff out on their own in the future, coaching is the way to go.

So, the next time Chris comes to you and says they’re stuck with a student issue or on a project either during a scheduled meeting or just drops by, ask them, “Hmm, how do you think your talents might be getting in your way here?” Once they’ve landed on something, discuss it a bit and ask them, “How do you think your other talents could help you here?”

We often get stuck because we’re overusing one of our Talent Themes. By redirecting them to lean into something else they do well that’s better suited for the situation, you’ve helped them resolve the issue AND given them a way to process future struggles.

This is also a great opportunity to encourage folks to connect with other team members who have other Talent Themes. Sometimes leaning into one of your other Talent Themes does the trick. But other times it might be more effective to reach out to someone who has a Strength that could more directly tackle the issue. For example, my friend, Rebecca, always struggled to create flyers for her events. But I loved doing that. From a team productivity perspective, Rebecca struggling for three hours on a poster that might not even get students’ attention was a waste of our resources. So what made more sense was for me to do them and have her do those pesky spreadsheet for me.   



Another easy way to incorporate CliftonStrengths is during meetings. Yes, you can specifically add Strengths to the agenda and have folks can share insights they’ve noticed by reviewing their reports or patterns they’ve noticed in their daily reflections. But you can also use it to…

  • Problem solve

  • Reflect on completed projects or events

  • Plan for future projects or events

How does this work? You guessed it. Start with our two powerful questions. Let’s say you’re concerned about vandalism in the res hall. Well, how might our Talent Themes be getting in the way of addressing this problem? Remember, our Talent Themes don’t just impact what we do, but how we see the world and feel about it. Maybe some folks are letting their biases impact how they’re approaching a situation. It can be very powerful to have a conversation and have someone realize and acknowledge, “Oh, I see that my Empathy/Individualization/Consistency might be getting in my way here.”

If you just finished your annual whatever festival, that’s a great time to ask the team how their talents helped make the event a success AND how they might have gotten in the way.

And I’ll just add that even if your event IS a success, that doesn’t mean there’s not room for improvement. Often that improvement means identifying ways our talents got a bit out of control in a certain area which led you to spend TOO much time on them. Remember those signs I made for Rebecca? Well, if I wasn’t careful, I could spend DAYS creating and revising them. Knowing this helps your team be more productive in the future.

Finally, a great time to discuss Strengths is as you’re prepping for a new event, project, or initiative. Sometimes people volunteer to do things because no one else volunteered (or at least quickly enough for their liking) or they know “someone” needs to do it. But that doesn’t mean they’re the best person for the job. Take the time to ask whose talents are best suited to do _____ or _____. Discuss what Talent Themes in the group might show up in ways that prevent you from doing your best or doing your best efficiently.

And by the way, this doesn’t mean that if someone’s talents might get in the way they shouldn’t do _____. But by taking the time to discuss this as a team, folks can better select the part of the project that best aligns with their Talent Themes. And if there IS something they know might get in their way, you can make a plan to avoid it. That can include partnering with others for support. For example, I have Input and LOVE researching ideas and best practices. But because I love it so much, sometimes I do it longer than is helpful for the overall project. Since Alicia knows this about me, she can check in and see where I am. If two weeks have gone by and I’m still researching, she can gently remind me to knock it off because we need to put things into motion.



As I mentioned earlier, training on Strengths itself is always a great idea. If you haven’t had anyone explain the framework and help folks interpret their reports, that’s the first step. If you did that but didn’t keep up the momentum, do it again. There are also trainings that dig deeper into CliftonStrengths and how to better understand yourself. For example, we help folks discover their Authentic Leadership Style based on their Talent Themes.

But training through a Strengths lens doesn’t just have to be just about Strengths. You can use it for pretty much anything. Many of you are planning your summer training and retreats right now to prep for the fall. And you may be wondering how to incorporate Strengths into topics that don’t seem to directly relate, like emergency procedures or getting onboarded for the new software you finally got permission to purchase. How do you incorporate people’s talents into stuff like that?

Now, I’d love to tell you it’s super complicated and that you absolutely need to hire us to figure it out, but it’s actually easy-peasy. Remember those two powerful questions? Well for every topic, no matter how obscure or unconnected it seems to be, just have folks reflect on how their Talent Themes might help them do that thing and how they might get in the way. We use the same worksheet over and over again in our training. We just tweak the title with the name of that topic.

What does that look like? Tell folks what they need to know about emergency procedures. Then have them fill out the worksheet around how their talents might help them and how they might get in the way. Once folks have reflected, discuss it as a team.


Now I should point out that simply identifying how you and your team members’ talents might get in your way – or did – is just the first step. The end goal is to come up with a plan to keep it from happening in the future. Like me with the flyers. I know I love designing them so much that I might take an obscene amount of time to do so if I’m not careful. So how can I avoid that?

  • I could give myself a deadline of 2 hours.

  • I could lean into one of my other Talent Themes, like Strategic or Context.

  • I could schedule a student worker to put up the flyers at 4PM, so I can’t fudge on the deadline.

  • I could tell Alicia to punch me in the face if I’m not finished by a certain time.

Again, step one for all of this is becoming more mindful of how folks are using their Talent Themes on autopilot. Once you know that, you can start coaching your team to lean into other talents, partner with others, or just create new habits or systems to increase your productivity.

All of this can be easily integrated into your current systems, meetings, and training. You just have to be intentional and consistent. It might take folks, including yourself, a while to feel comfortable with this new way of thinking, but just be patient. Set clear expectations for yourself and your team about how you’re going to integrate this approach and make sure you’re holding folks accountable as everyone upgrades their understanding and use of their Strengths.

Hopefully, this has given you some tangible ways to increase your use of CliftonStrengths for yourself and your team. Nothing I mentioned here is particularly difficult, but we know implementing things when you’re already overloaded can be challenging. If that’s you, we’d love to assist you as you prep for your upcoming training or to upgrade how you use CliftonStrengths with your team. Just reach out to us at and we can get you the support you need to use this powerful tool to increase your team’s productivity and sense of wellbeing.

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